Thursday, February 04, 2010

Don't Skip Steps on Sunshine Notice

As I write, a City Council closed session on budget amendments should be just about concluding.

The meeting was the subject of a Courier News article yesterday and a notice posted on the city web site.

There is no doubt that the meeting was necessary, as an executive session after Monday's City Council meeting apparently did not produce a consensus on budget amendments and it is past time for the budget to be passed. If tonight's session results in agreement on amendments, budget passage could come as early as next week.

The problem may be that the meeting was perhaps not called with sufficient notice. (Clarification from Deputy Municipal Clerk A. Jalloh: "To clarify, I have confirmation from both the Courier News and the Star Ledger of the 48 hour notice they recieved. ") The New Jersey Press Association's public notice search did not turn up any Plainfield City Council meetings this week. Normally, a special meeting requires 48-hour notice in two newspapers, as the school board found out the hard way a few years ago when the state Department of Education's Office of Fiscal Compliance and Accountability cited such a lapse in a special meeting where an interim superintendent was hired.

Luckily for officials in the OFAC case, no complaint was filed by a stated deadline, so the issue became moot.

Back to the city. If budget amendments come out of Thursday's meeting but the meeting itself did not meet the Sunshine Law, should it have to be a do-over? Does it matter? Could it be challenged?

All these questions could be avoided in the future if those who follow City Clerk Laddie Wyatt, now on the verge of retirement, will uphold the goal of meeting the rules on various kinds of public meetings.

The validity of decisions made Thursday remains to be seen. (Comment Friday a.m. from Bernice: If all that is needed is submission of a notice and not publication, then there was no problem.) Let the public Let's hope decisions that follow will be equitable, high-minded and fiscally viable.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Donna said...

Aside from the issue of appropriate notice, there is the issue of appropriate subject matter for executive session. There are only 6 issues that can be discussed in camera, of which budget amendments is not one.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The closed session dealt with personnel matters and contract negotiations resulting from proposed budget amendments.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The budget amendments should have been made public. Particulars relating to specific employees and ongoing negotiatons are appropriate to a closed session, but the overall changes should be out in the open.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone in Plainfield swears they are the 8th Councilmember, half of you don't even know what your talking about. The City has a Corporation Counsel to advise on what's legal and what's not, If you think he's wrong, challange the decission in court,Otherwise SHUT UP!

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the Council trying to hide? Maybe someone should ask Council President.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:23 Anonymous- Why so nasty?

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just in California where they take posting of notice and communication VERY SERIOUSLY. Thank you for keeping an eye on this and making sure the regulations are followed.

8:22 AM  

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