Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another attorney weighs in on "effective majority" question

On January 19, 2009, I wrote to the High Bridge (Hunterdon County) Mayor and Borough Council asking how meetings of the Council's three-member committees (e.g. the Planning & Engineering Committee) are held in a manner consistent with the Open Public Meetings Act.

My letter and Borough Attorney Barry S. Goodman's February 13, 2009 are on-line here.

In sum, Mr. Goodman states:

1. An "effective majority" and a "quorum" of the Borough Council are synonymous and that the Riya Finnegan v. Township Council case (i.e. a case that I cited that suggests that the two terms are not synonymous) does not convince him otherwise.

2. If one or more members of the Borough Council who are not members of a Council committee wished to attend a Council committee meeting, such that the total number of council members present would exceed three, then the committee meeting would be advertised and the public would be allowed to attend.

So, it would appear that a member of the High Bridge Borough Council could, if he or she wanted to, announce an intention to attend each and every meeting of any Council committee of which he or she was not already a member, and thus require each of those committee meetings (provided that at least four Council members will be in attendance) to be advertised and open to the public. It strikes me that this is exactly what a member of the Borough Council who wishes to promote governmental openness and transparency ought to do.

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