NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ —Residents looking for information on city employees won’t find much at public council meetings.
The New Brunswick City Council announced last night, Jan. 18, that it will no longer discuss personnel matters during its bi-monthly get-togethers in City Hall. When explaining the decision, officials pointed to the potential for lawsuits.
“When you discuss personnel matters at any point—you can be in corporate America, you can be in the city—it opens you up to litigation,” Council President Glenn Fleming said. “We’re trying to protect all parties involved.”
Council Vice President John Anderson said he attended a conference last weekend during which an attorney for the New Jersey League of Municipalities advised officials against talking about city employees during public meetings.
The move also comes after a flurry of questions from residents regarding the status of employees who work for the water utility and the police department, suspensions and individuals’ job duties.
New Brunswick’s attorney, T.K. Shamy, informed the audience of the informal policy after a member of the public asked about attorney W. Richard Veitch’s role in city government.
The state Supreme Court reportedly censured Veitch in 2013 for interviewing a client’s co-defendant despite being told not to by that person’s lawyer.
Veitch works as a contracted public defender for New Brunswick, Shamy noted.
A member of the public then asked whether Veitch was facing any disciplinary action from the city.
It’s unclear whether any potential city-initiated disciplinary proceedings exist and whether they stemmed from the state censure.
“We’re not discussing personnel matters, and I’m not even suggesting there was a disciplinary matter,” Shamy said.
Residents may continue to comment on city employees, Fleming said. But city officials are unlikely to respond, he added.
Certain information about public employees, including their contracts, salaries and earned overtime pay, are a matter of public record, according to the state. That means citizens are entitled to receive such information through formal requests.