Saturday, March 21, 2009

Neptune Township agrees to specific start time for "regular portion" of its meetings.

Neptune Township (Monmouth County) holds two successive meetings on the same night (a "workshop" meeting followed by a "regular" meeting). They advertise a) that the "workshop" meeting will begin at 6 p.m., and b) that the "regular" meeting will commence "immediately after" the "workshop" meeting.

In a February 3, 2009 letter to the Mayor and Township Committee, I raised two complaints regarding this procedure. First, I argued, if Neptune is going to have two separate meetings, it needs to have a public comment period at each meeting (Neptune's practice is to allow public comment only at the "regular meeting"). Second, I argued that if Neptune is holding two distinct meetings, it needed to publish, in advance, the start time of each of those meetings. In other words, it had to say that the "regular" meeting would start, say, at "8 o'clock" rather than just saying that it would start after the "workshop" meeting ended.

On March 9, 2009, the Township Committee discussed my letter in closed session. (The closed session resolution gave "Potential Litigation -- Meeting Procedure" as a reason for the closed session.) Predictably, the Township's attorney, in a March 16, 2009 letter, claimed that neither of my arguments had any merit because the Neptune Township Committee does not hold two meetings in the same night. Rather, he claimed, the Committee holds "one continuous meeting" which contains both a "workshop" and "regular" portion.

(Incidentally, I think that the attorney's argument is at odds with the facts. The agendas for both the "workshop" and the "regular" meetings held on March 9, 2009 are on-line here. The first words on each agenda show that "Mayor Brantley calls the meeting to order." So, it seems to me that the fact that both meetings were formally called to order strongly suggests that there were two distinct meetings.)

However, the Township Committee did agree, going forward, to schedule its "regular portions" to begin at 7 p.m. This is of some benefit, because it lets people who want to attend a "regular portion" know when they should arrive. Previously, those citizens had no idea when to arrive for the "regular portion" because its start time was dependent upon the end time of the "workshop portion."

The correspondence between me and the Township is on-line here.

John Paff, Chair
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Open Government Advocacy Project.

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