Neptune City Considers Placing Time Limits on Public Speaking

By PETE WALTON

The Neptune City Borough Council is considering guidelines for public comment and the recording of meetings.

When the council met earlier this week, it postponed action on a proposed resolution so that the matter could be studied further.

Borough Attorney Jason Sena said he provided the language in the resolution for consideration by the council based on similar rules set by other towns.

The proposal includes limiting the time of comments to three minutes per person during a meeting. At present, the council has two opportunities for public comment during a meeting, one on agenda items and another for remarks on any subject.

Sena said that state courts have upheld a time limit as low as three minutes but the council could set the time at five minutes or longer if it so chose.

The tabled resolution called for commenters to go to a microphone in front of the members and state their full name and address.

Jen Coombs, who records council meetings and posts them on social media, said the council should not require speakers to give their addresses. She said that disclosing addresses could subject those who comment to harassment.

Coombs also objected to a proposed regulation stating that any person making a recording of a meeting “shall not record any person under the age of 18, unless that individual is a family member, or at the request of a family member of the person being recorded.”

“The state has no exception for age,” Coombs said. “It’s a First Amendment issue.”

Councilwoman Danielle Pappas said she would not want her child to be recorded but later offered that there could be “implied consent” if parents or guardians brought persons under 18 to the meeting.

In other business, the council hired Kelly Hellwig as the new municipal court administrator. Hellwig comes to the borough from Howell Township, where she had been deputy court clerk. Her salary for 2020 will be $72,000.

Borough Administrator Chris Cherbini said Hellwig will begin work on Feb. 4.

Gregory Vella, attorney for the Neptune City Land Use Board, wrote to the council about its request last year that the board study whether all or part of the borough be designated as an area in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation.

Vella said the board believed placing any designation on the entire town was “overly broad” and “not appropriate” for Neptune City.

The lawyer said the board would consider any specific properties which the council may wish to consider for designation.

The request to the land use panel came while the council was controlled by a 4-2 Democrat majority. The subject of redevelopment in the borough became an issue in the November 2019 general election, when Republicans regained control of the council after a year out of power.

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