Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Variance for 5' 8" Rear Yard (Instead of 25') Sought

According to a legal notice in yesterday's Record, Eugenio Bruni is seeking to subdivide 134 Charlotte Place, currently owned by Joan and Michael Bello, into two lots.  He also is seeking variances for both of the lots.  For one lot, Mr. Bruni wants a "front yard setback of 15.3' where 25' is required and a rear yard of 5.8' where 25' is required."  For the other lot, Mr. Bruni wants "a building height measured from the curb level of 35' where 32' is allowed and a building height measured from finished grade of 31.2' where 30' is allowed.  The Planning Board hearing is Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.  This is an excellent opportunity to see the impact eliminating the Board of Adjustment will have on Englewood Cliffs' land use.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Public records found lacking - The Record

Public records found lacking

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS – For the first time in more than a year, the Borough Council has taken
 the routine step of approving meeting minutes — something that normally is done every month
and is mandated by state law.
John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project, submitted a public records request last month asking for minutes for the three most recently held
 closed-door meetings and public session meetings for which minutes are available.
The borough was unable to fulfill the request in the required seven business days, because the
 minutes had not been completed.
Paff said that when he made the request he had no idea the borough wasn't maintaining written
"The point of approving the minutes is to make sure they accurately reflect what happened at the meeting," Paff said. "They wait, and then the people voting on them weren't even there. This is incompetence. This is negligence, and it's not fair to the public."
Mayor Joseph Parisi said borough staffers are working to transcribe minutes for all of last year's meetings and stay current with recent meetings.
"We're doing what I'm calling burning both ends of the candle, the old and the new and meeting
in the middle as soon as possible," Parisi said.
The state's Open Public Records Act requires that: "Each public body shall keep reasonably comprehensible minutes of all its meetings showing the time and place, the members present,
 the subjects considered, the actions taken, the vote of each member, and any other information
required to be shown in the minutes by law, which shall be promptly available to the public."
When the mayor and council members questioned the missing minutes last year, Borough Administrator/Clerk Susan Spohn said she was too short-staffed to produce them.
Spohn was without an administrative assistant for a few months, and Republicans, who then
 controlled the council, eliminated the deputy clerk position. Parisi and Democrats, who now
 control five of six council seats, reinstated the deputy clerk job at the beginning of the year.
Spohn said she now has three people working on typing the minutes.
All of the meetings are recorded, and the public can request copies of those tapes, Parisi said.
But Paff said people shouldn't have to listen to a six-hour tape to find out what happened.
He said the minutes are like a table of contents for a meeting.
Paff requested the minutes after reading an article in The Record about Republican
 Councilwoman Carrol McMorrow alleging that the Open Public Meetings Act was violated
 at two council meetings.
McMorrow said Parisi failed to open for public comment at the reorganization meeting in
January, something Borough Attorney Carter Corriston has said was a violation of the law.
Parisi has apologized and said it was an oversight that would not happen again.
In addition to requesting meeting minutes, Paff has started a blog, "What's happening in
 Englewood Cliffs Borough?" at englewoodcliffs.blogspot.com. He did so, he said, because
he said the borough's website is lacking information that should be available to the public.
He plans to post documents he receives through his requests and hopes the site will generate
"I'm hoping that the 'political resistance' will start using the blog to get their points out about the shortcomings of the borough," Paff said.
The borough does not put its agendas, meeting minutes or budgets online.
State law requires municipalities to post the three most recent budgets online.
Councilman Ed Aversa, who is head of the mayor's new communications committee, said he
is meeting with vendors and working to address the website. He said his goal is to have a "properly working website" by June.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The truth

So Parisi finally admitted the truth at the February Mayor and Council meeting. He violated the Open Public Meetings Act at the Reorg meeting in January. But according to Corriston, it is no big deal.
Really? The residents have the right to speak at every Council meeting. It is a BIG Deal to stifle public comment when the Mayor sees fit. This was no accident as the Mayor has been presiding over meetings for at least 6 years and has opened every other meeting to the public.
It is also no accident that this was the meeting when the Mayor introduced an ordinance to abolish the Board of Adjustment. He just did not want to hear the public's opinion.
Shame on Mayor Parisi!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Checking on the Englewood Cliffs Board of Education

I made the following request today via e-mail to mwelfel@englewoodcliffs.org I'll post the outcome when I receive it.

Please accept this e-mail/fax as my request for government records in accordance with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access. Please respond and send all responsive documents to me via e-mail at paff@pobox.com. If e-mail is not possible, please fax responses and responsive records to me at 908-325-0129. Also, I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge your receipt of this e-mail/fax.

Records requested:

1. The minutes of three most recently held nonpublic (i.e. "closed" or "executive") municipal governing body meetings for which minutes are available for public disclosure in either full or redacted form.

2. The resolutions, as required by N.J.S.A. 10:4-13, that authorized the three nonpublic meetings for which minutes were provided in response to #1 above. (If the resolutions are spread out in full in the public meeting minutes (as opposed to "free standing" resolutions), please furnish only those pages of the public meeting minutes that contain the resolutions.)

3. The resolutions, as required by N.J.S.A. 10:4-13, that authorized the municipal governing body's three most recently held nonpublic meetings, regardless of whether minutes of those meetings are publicly disclosable in either full or redacted form. (If the resolutions are spread out in full in the public meeting minutes (as opposed to "free standing" resolutions), please furnish only those pages of the public meeting minutes that contain the resolutions.)

Thank you,

John Paff
(voice - 732-873-1251)

Conversation with Clerk Spohn

I spoke with Borough Clerk Susan Spohn today, regarding the fact that I have not yet received a response to my January 27, 2012 Open Public Records Act request. According to law, citizens are entitled to some sort of written response within seven business days of the Borough's receipt of a request.

Clerk Spohn conceded that she should have responded earlier and indicated that she was intending to respond today. She indicated that production of the the Borough Council's meeting minutes was delayed, but she didn't advise me of the length of the delay. She said that there would several sets of meeting minutes up for approval at tonight's meeting.

I agreed to extend the time within which she could respond to my request until February 22, 2012. This is more time than she wanted, but I offered it since I would be on vacation the week of February 13th and wouldn't be able to review the minutes until February 22nd in any event.