OLD Borough On The Record

A discussion of open and efficient government

Agendas – we can do much better

In the state of NJ, the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) requires that the public be advised when public meetings of public bodies take place.

For example, the Mayor and Council, the Planning Board, or the Board of Education must notify the public they will be meeting to discuss issues of the public importance – and they may take action. These Boards satisfy this task by publishing a simple document – let’s call it a meeting agenda.

Here are the Open Public Meetings Act OPMA notification requirements for agendas of public body meetings.  An agenda must be published:

  1. In a public place
  2. In two newspapers
  3. Within 24 hours of the meeting

Here are the concerns:

  1. For meetings of our Mayor and Council, taping a paper copy of an agenda in the lobby of the Borough Hall satisfies above item #1.
  2. Despite the fact that we live in a 24/7 smart phone Internet-connected world, according to OPMA, agendas do not need to be published on a web site.
  3. Regarding the content of agendas, local governments don’t have policies, only traditions (aka undocumented procedures).  As elected representatives and Board Secretaries come and go, so does the content and layout of most government documents.

Recommendations:

  1. Post a notice of all meetings of public bodies on the home page of the Borough web site.
  2. Post the Agenda on the Borough web site on the Borough web site at least 24 hours before the meeting.
  3. Use the Borough-wide email notification system to invite residents to upcoming meetings – along with attached agendas.
  4. Establish a Council Policies, Procedures, and Protocols Committee to establish standards for the above issues.
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