Thursday, January 21, 2010

South Bound Brook Borough agrees to more promptly release of meeting minutes

On November 2, 2009, I wrote to the South Bound Brook Borough (Somerset County) Mayor and Council and asked them to develop consistent policies regarding timely release of their meeting minutes. My November 2, 2009 letter is on-line here

On December 3, 2009, I met with Borough Clerk Donald Kazar at Borough Hall to follow up on my letter. Mr. Kazar was receptive to my suggestions and offered to make some changes which I summarized in a December 8, 2009 letter. That letter, which is on-line here, summarized the changes and asked Mr. Kazar to confirm whether or not my summary was accurate. According to that latter:
Going forward, [the Borough Council will]:

a) Prepare draft minutes, marked “draft,” of both the Borough Council’s public and nonpublic (i.e. closed or executive) meetings and have them ready by no later than the business day prior to the next Council meeting.

b) Provide the Council members with full (i.e. unredacted) versions of these drafts in their Council packets.

c) Provide any member of the public who stops by Borough Hall the day of or the day before a Council meeting with 1) draft minutes of the Council’s most recently held public meeting and/or 2) draft minutes, redacted as necessary, of the Council’s most recently held nonpublic meeting.
In response to my December 8, 2009 letter, Mr. Kazar stated in an e-mail of the same day that:
"The only change from what I'm doing now would be marking the council meetings minutes with the word Draft for the Public. The Council receives the previous minutes at least a week before the next meeting, which is usually the agenda meeting. The other change would be providing the executive session meetings to the council. This will done when they receive the other meeting minutes. Of course they would receive them as unredacted unless directed by the attorney for whatever reason."

"The other change would be having the minutes as drafts to the public. I will post them on the Web site when handled to the council members and mark them as draft for the Web Site. That shouldn't be a problem. I would also have them available to the public if requested."
In reply, I e-mailed Mr. Kazar back and asked him: "In your second paragraph, are you saying that you would put both a) draft public minutes and b) draft, redacted executive minutes on the web site prior to the following meeting?"

On December 15, 2009, Mr. Kazar replied:
"I would post the draft minutes and any draft executive meeting minutes as soon as they are given to the council for review. The draft copies would be posted on the web site and also available to those folks that want to review them prior to the council meeting. Usually meeting minutes are done approx 5 to 7 days prior to the agenda meeting unless the staff in out on vacation or other events happens before the minutes are completed."
Accordingly, members of the public ought to now have, prior to the next council meeting, access to drafts of a) public meeting minutes and b) redacted executive session minutes.