Thursday, April 12, 2012

This editorial describes a situation similar to that in Englewood Cliffs Borough.

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012

Editorial: Backlog on Trenton Council meeting minutes must be remedied

Many of us feel there are not enough hours in the day to fulfill all our obligations.
The City of Trenton, it’s been discovered, does not have enough minutes in its archive to meet legal requirements.

The backlog has been a chronic problem, says City Clerk Leona Baylor. It’s a headache she inherited when she started in the office.

Alerted that the written records of proceedings and actions at government meetings are missing from the city’s website, Mercer County Prosecutor Joe Bocchini wrote to Baylor asking that the omission be addressed and requesting a timetable for accomplishing that.

It’s certainly well within the parameters of the state’s “Sunshine Law,” which requires public bodies to keep “reasonably comprehensible” minutes of their meetings and to make them available to the public for inspection and copying.

Minutes must include the time and place of the meeting, the members present, the subjects considered, the actions taken, the votes of each member and any other information required by law. The law sets out not a timeframe but the direction that the record should be presented “promptly.”

There’s certainly no question that Trenton’s records are behind schedule.

As The Times’ Matt Fair reported last week, there are nearly two years’ worth of minutes from City Council meetings that have never been written up.

Documentation is available for only 16 of nearly 100 council meetings that have been held since the current council took office in July 2010. In addition, meeting minutes are not available for more than two dozen meetings predating the current council.

Catching up on all that accumulated work will be an enormous task. It’s a job that’s been delayed by attention to an increasing number of Open Public Records Act requests, which must be responded to within seven business days.

Still, those minutes are a necessary and important reference for residents, especially in the contentious back and forth that characterizes Trenton’s city government.

Baylor has said her office will be hiring a new deputy clerk. That should help with the unfinished business. But as the city clerk strives to catch up with the meetings of years past, it also should focus on making sure the minutes of every meeting from now on are available promptly.

If the office does not have enough resources to do so, it should be given help – at least on a temporary basis — until the archive is current.

No comments:

Post a Comment