SPARTA, NJ- The Sparta Township Council has been discussing or not discussing what goes on in the advisory committees. When new mayor Jerry Murphy took the gavel for his first regular meeting, he told the council members they were to no longer give liaison reports from the committees with which they were associated.
Murphy told them they were only to bring up items on which the council needed to take action, in the name of keeping the meetings brief. Typical council meetings finish in approximately one hour or less.
On Tuesday, under old business councilman Dan Chiariello brought up a discussion from the last meeting.
At the previous meeting on January 28, TAPinto Sparta had requested that the new prohibition on committee reports be reconsidered. The request was made because the committee’s minutes are not posted so without discussion of the council liaisons, community members have no way of knowing what is discussed in the committees.
At both the January 28 and February 11 meeting Murphy argued the community members could look on the website to see when the meetings were held and then attend if there was something they wanted to know.
The other four council members disagreed with Murphy, saying they thought the reports should be made in public or through posted minutes.
At the Tuesday meeting, Chiariello said he would like to have a resolution at the next meeting, giving members a chance to vote on the issue of posting minutes. Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith agreed with Chiariello that minutes should be posted.
Councilman David Smith and Councilwoman Christine Quinn were in favor of having the reports given in the meeting and not having minutes posted.
Quinn said much of what goes on in the committees is “brainstorming” and may not ever be acted on. She said she did not want people in the community thinking things were going to happen, when, in fact, they were simply being discussed. Smith and Murphy agreed.
Murphy was concerned that minutes would be subject to OPRA requests.
Chiariello and Whilesmith both said they did not believe there was anything nefarious or malicious happening with the committees, they said they "just want everything to be as transparent as possible."
The Advisory Committees, as listed on the township website are:
Cultural Affairs Committee- Chiariello liaison with eight members and two vacancies and no set meeting schedule . They organize the Free Summer Concert Series.
Economic Development Committee – Murphy liaison with 11 members and two alternates. They meet every second Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
Parks and Monuments Committee – Murphy liaison with two other members and no set meeting schedule.
Salute 07871 Committee – Quinn liaison with five members who all serve on other advisory boards. They support township veterans and do not have any set meeting schedule.
Senior Advisory Committee – Smith liaison with 11 members. They meet every fourth Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Municipal Alliance Committee – Quinn liaison. Membership varies, with Sparta school’s Superintendent and Sparta Township Manager are ex-officios. They will be meeting quarterly.
Technology Committee- Comprised of two council members and the township manager. There is no set meeting schedule.
Recreation Advisory Committee- Smith and Quinn liaison, with 10 members of staggered terms. It is not listed on the township website so meeting information is not available.