John Paff, a well known open government advocate, filed a pro se lawsuit against Bellmawr Borough Council alleging violations of the Open Public Meetings Act.
In his complaint, Paff alleges that Bellmawr Borough Council has failed or refused to record minutes of its caucus meetings and further, that minutes have failed to specify the manner in which notice was given.
Bellmawr Council holds two types of recurring meetings: “caucus” meetings, which are typically held at 5:00 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month and the “regular” meetings, which are typically held on the fourth Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m.
Paff’s Complaint states: “Council does not presently keep or record…has never kept or recorded minutes of its ‘Caucus’ meetings,’ which violates N.J.S.A. 10:4-14.”
The Complaint also alleges that Council’s January 28, 2016, January 4, 2016, November 23, 2015, November 3, 2015, and October 22, 2015 meeting minutes do not contain any language, in accordance of N.J.S.A. 10:4-10, that informs the public that adequate notice of that meeting had been provided “specifying the time, place, and matter in which such notice was provided.”
Additionally, the Complaint states that the 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 Council meeting minutes on the Borough’s website suffer from deficiencies.
Paff is seeking to be awarded the costs of his lawsuit and that going forward, Bellmawr Council be compelled to comply with all of the requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act.
Josh Tregear, the Borough Administrator, and Chuck Sauter, the Borough Clerk, were both emailed yesterday for a comment on the lawsuit. Chuck Sauter responded via telephone and he referred the matter to the Borough’s solicitor, Robert Messick, due to its legal nature. A voice mail message left for Messick was not returned.
When reached for a comment, the plaintiff, John Paff, said via telephone yesterday afternoon: “I have been doing this for about 20 years and I don’t think I have ever found an instance of Borough Council or a Municipal Council not keeping meeting minutes at all, or for a class of meetings. I’ve often found meeting minutes that I don’t think are appropriate, or I don’t think are detailed enough, or I don’t think are reasonably comprehensible as required by law. But this is a case where Borough Council just doesn’t keep meeting minutes at all for one of its sets of its meetings, for the work sessions, and that’s very unusual.
To view the Complaint, click below:
Paff vs. Bellmawr Borough Council