NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Borough Council approved a new council rules resolution reversing the recently adopted rules of committee representation at its Monday, April 23 meeting. This decision means that the mayor may attend any advisory board or committee meetings as an ex-officio member in addition to two council representatives.
In February 2018 the council approved a resolution to have up to three council member attendances at all borough board and committee meetings. The so-called Sunshine Law prevents more than three members of the governing body from attending those meetings. That change effectively excluded the mayor from attending a meeting if three council members were present.
The February decision upset Mayor Al Morgan who wished to continue attending committee meetings on a regular basis. He reasoned that the committee representation should include the mayor as an ex-officio member of a committee or board since the mayor represents the executive form of the government while the council acts as the legislative body. The mayor of New Providence has been an ex-officio member of boards and committees since 1899, Morgan said in February.
Council President Robert Munoz explained then that New Jersey has 12 different forms of municipal government. New Providence is representative of “a weak mayor” governing body format, in which the mayor only votes as a tiebreaker.
The council’s decision to exclude the mayor from attending meetings created an uproar in the community as many residents attended council meetings in support of the mayor. Residents expressed their displeasure and disappointment with the February decision at council meetings, on social media and by writing to the governing body.
Consequently, the council reconsidered its committee representation policy at its March Annual Goal Setting Meeting as both the council and the mayor realized that the dispute does not belong to the character of New Providence.
At that meeting Councilman Michael Gennaro suggested three options to consider: a) change the by-laws again; b) keep them as they are; or c) go back to the way they were before the recent change. He suggested option c, going back to the old by-laws with “the commitment to work co-operatively.” This option suggested the return to a system of having one council member as a committee liaison, another as a co-liaison or an alternate, thus leaving the mayor with the option to attend as an ex-officio member.
“I don’t want three council members at committee meetings. We fixed something that is not broken,” Councilman Robert Robinson said at the March meeting.
The latest decision gives the mayor an opportunity to attend all board and committee meetings with the exception of the Capital Improvement Committee and the new Communications Committee, each of which is represented by three council members. Morgan noted that he has been briefed about the Capital Improvement Committee meetings, and expects the same with regard to the Communications Committee.