Commissioners Promise to Post Agendas Days Before Meetings
Haddonfield residents have complained about untimely access to meeting agendas.
The Haddonfield Board of Commissioners have promised to post meeting agendas on the borough website on the Friday before meetings after residents complained in recent weeks.
The commissioners met Tuesday for an action meeting. The preliminary agenda was posted at 4:30 p.m. Friday on the borough website. Haddonfield Patch also publishes meeting agendas when they are forwarded.
Residents have complained that they have not been informed in a timely manner about key recent meetings, including on May 22 when commissioner agreed to pay $356,000 to install artificial turf at a borough-owned athletic field at the high school and on June 14, when an agenda was not published on the website before the meeting. The money is contengent on a private group raising $500,000 toward the project which will install turf two fields at the high school.
The May 22 agenda was posted on the borough website at 7:30 p.m., the same time that the meeting started.
Janice Hallahan, a borough resident, peppered the three commissioners Tuesday with questions about why Haddonfield does not pay to have meeting notices and agendas published.
"Who made a decision not to get the agendas published?" Hallahan asked.
"The Open Public Meetings Act specifically states that if an annual schedule of meetings is published in January, no other notice needs to be given," borough Solicitor Mario Iavicoli responded. "If we have a special meeting and you don't do the annual January list of meetings, then you are required to send out a notice 48 hours before the meeting and send an agenda of those items you have already concluded will be discussed at the meeting.
"The problem the municipalities have is we can't tell the newspapers what to publish in their papers."
Municipalities are also required to publish notice of the first and second reading of new or changed ordinances, or local laws. The borough publishes these notices in the Courier-Post and the Retrospect newspapers. They can also be found on the New Jersey Press Association website at njpa.org.
Iavicoli said Haddonfield goes above and beyond what the law requires for meeting notices and agendas by publishing it on the borough website and by sending notices to the media. The borough also pays to publish a newsletter, Municipal Matters, twice a month in a local weekly paper.
Officials agreed to post the agenda on the Friday before meetings in a special meeting on Thursday, June 14. That agenda was not posted to the borough website before the meeting because the borough clerk, Deanna Bennett, was on vacation that day and she forgot to post it before she left, officials said. Sherri Gallagher, a Chews Landing Road resident, complained to the commissioners at that meeting.
Commissioners generally meet on the first and third Monday of the month for work sessions and the second and fourth Tuesday for action meetings. Work sessions generally begin at 5 p.m. and action meetings at 7:30 p.m.
The commissioners announced an abbreviated summer meeting schedule Tuesday that includes a special action meeting on Thursday July 5 at 6:30 p.m. with a work session at 6:00 p.m. Additionally, the commissioners will meet on Monday, July 23 at 3 p.m. for a work session and 7:30 p.m. for a regular meeting. They will only meet once the next month, on Thursday, Aug. 23 at 3 p.m. for a work session and 7:30 p.m. for an action meeting.
All meetings are held at the Municipal Hall, 242 Kings Highway East, and are open to the public.