Thursday, February 02, 2006

Council Meeting Schedule May Change

The governing body may change its meeting schedule, City Council President Ray Blanco said Monday (Jan. 30, 2006).

The council usually holds regular meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month, with agenda sessions on preceding Mondays. A schedule for 2006 reflecting the traditional plan was recently adopted by the council, then published and posted in City Clerk Laddie Wyatt’s office.

But now the council is considering a schedule that calls for agenda sessions on the first and third Mondays of each month, with regular meetings to follow on first and third Thursdays. The council may also hold conference meetings from time to time, Blanco said.

The model follows the meeting schedule of Jersey City, where acting City Administrator Carlton McGee was a former business administrator. It would also solve a dilemma for acting Public Works & Urban Development Director Jennifer Wenson-Maier, a Rahway council member who was named council president for 2006. Rahway holds its regular voting meeting on the second Monday of each month, which clashes with the Plainfield council’s agenda session.

The restructuring would also change the flow of information to the Plainfield governing body, which currently receives packets from the clerk’s office after the close of business Fridays. By receiving information on Thursday instead of Friday or Saturday, Councilman Cory Storch said, the council would have more time to get questions answered before the meetings.

Storch said members could then shift from “technical to substantive issues” at the meetings.

Department heads would have to send their requests for council action to the clerk by noon Mondays instead of Wednesdays.

The city’s special charter calls only for one meeting a month at City Hall Library, but the schedule used in recent decades is in the Municipal Code and would have to be revised.

McGee, Wenson-Maier, acting Administration & Finance Director Norton Bonaparte, acting Public Affairs & Safety Director Martin Hellwig and acting Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson are all now into the second month of 90-day temporary terms. Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has not yet offered their names for advice and consent of the City Council for four-year terms concurrent with hers. The 90-day rule came out of a dispute between a previous council and former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, who allowed some cabinet members to stay on in acting capacity for months or years.

If confirmed, the cabinet members will face another issue - residency. The city requires its top administrators to become residents of Plainfield within six months of appointment and confirmation. For example, Wenson-Maier lives in Rahway and Hellwig lives in Nutley. If approved for full terms, both would be subject to the city’s residency requirement unless it is waived by the City Council.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: city council