Government is of the people, by the people, and for the people- but not in Vernon. The State of New Jersey has recognized that the public has the right to public information. The Open Public Records Act is a law that enables public access to public information and requires governments to release public information requested by the public in seven days.                                                                                                                        

On July 9, 2012, the Vernon Council voted and approved a developer’s agreement that was negotiated by the mayor. As of that date, the agreement became a public document. I submitted an O.P.R.A. request on August 31, 2012 for the document and the response in writing, from Vernon’s clerk, stated the document had not yet been signed by the mayor so it couldn’t be released. I responded that the document, according to law, does not need to be signed to be released so please fulfill my request. On September 11, 2012, she responded again, in writing that, “The document remains unsigned at this time and therefore not available to the public”. On September 12, 2012, I asked her by e-mail again to release the document and again, in writing she said, “As I previously stated, the document remains unsigned at this time”.

No less than three times, in writing, the clerk said the document was unsigned. On October 11, 2012, at a Vernon council meeting, I asked about the document and why the clerk was not releasing it. The mayor clearly said, on the record, “It’s not signed”. The council president said “It’s not signed yet”. I then questioned the council as to why they weren’t concerned about the fact that they voted on a matter on July 9, 2012 and the mayor had not yet executed their decision by October 11, 2012. I was met with complete disrespect from the council president as he accused me of being difficult. It was at that time councilman Kadish yelled out, “Then why do I have a signed copy? The attorney said it was done!” The mayor responded, “You do? I haven’t signed it yet”. Councilman Kadish questioned the mayor again about signing the document and the mayor said, “No, no, it’s not signed”.

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After I exchanged some argument by e-mail with Kevin Kelly regarding the document and he being aware I possessed a letter from his office dated August 10, 2012, which he sent to the developer’s attorney stating the developer’s agreement was fully executed, Kelly finally sent me the agreement on November 19, 2012.

I returned to the November 26, 2012 Vernon council meeting with the document finally in hand. I played the recording of the October 11, 2012 meeting demonstrating the repeated lies told to me by the mayor and council president Lynch. Not only was the document signed by the mayor on July 31, 2012, but the clerk signed her name right next to his name, as his witness. It was at this time the mayor saw fit to attack me personally.

Not only did the mayor, council, and clerk conspire to violate O.P.R.A., but they disgraced their oaths of office. Why does this matter? When laws are not followed by elected officials and employees, we the people, are cheated of our right to be treated respectfully and honestly. If this is how they can so comfortably violate the law, they didn’t just disrespect me. They have completely broken the trust of all who expect the truth.

 

Sally Rinker

Former Vernon Mayor