Neptune City Council Opposes Bill Amending Sunshine Law


coaster-news-200-newBy PETE WALTON

The Neptune City Borough Council has voted to oppose two state Senate bills which the council says are “unnecessary, unpopular with the public, and would result in significant financial and administrative burdens” on local towns.

Senate Bill 1045 would amend the Open Public Meetings Act to create what the council says are “impractical and burdensome requirements” which, among other things, would limit the ability of small groups of local officials to discuss issues of public concern.

“Under the bills, the responsibilities of municipal clerks, who the Legislature has already loaded with responsibilities beyond the scope of their office, would be stretched even further than current law requires without a single dollar of additional resources provided to, or authorized to be collected by municipalities,” the resolution says.

The lone vote against the resolution came from Pamela Renee, the only Democrat on the council. Renee said she supports Senate Bill 1045, which was released from committee without comment to the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“We’re not the boss, the public is the boss,” Renee said. “If my boss wants a spreadsheet, I give it to him. I don’t know what the hardship is. It seems like we are already doing what they ask.”

Mayor Bob Brown noted that Neptune City may not suffer from “paper terrorism” as much as other towns which are the victims of burdensome and often frivolous information requests. He said the New Jersey League of Municipalities has asked all communities in the state to voice their objections to the Senate proposals and that many towns have already done so.

Councilman Alex Tallman said he was “alarmed” by Renee’s “blatant disregard” for the league’s concerns.

“Some towns are bombarded with [Open Public Records Act] requests just meant to aggravate municipal employees,” the mayor said.

Several towns have had to hire multiple clerks to handle the information requests, he added.

Brown wants the Senate to “go back to the drawing board” and revise the proposals. He called the bills an attempt at “overgovernment.”

The mayor congratulated Councilman Andrew Wardell on his appointment to the Monmouth County Board of Health. Wardell said he was looking forward to being able to serve the county and the borough in the new post.

Wardell, the council’s liaison to the Board of Education, reported that Woodrow Wilson School eighth graders raised more than $700 for their class trip to Washington, D.C. by selling refreshments during the recent bocce tournament at Memorial Park.

The councilman reported that a “paint and sip” fundraiser for the Wilson Parent Teacher Organization is scheduled for Fri., Sept. 29 at the fire house. More information is available at Borough Hall.

The council also voted to change the date of its next meeting from Tues., Oct. 10 to Wed., Oct. 11.

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