Saturday, August 22, 2015

RE: Borough Council Executive Session Meeting Minutes

August 22, 2015

Hon. Joseph C. Parisi, Jr., Mayor and members of the
Englewood Cliffs Borough Council
482 Hudson Terrace
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
via e-mail and Fax to 201-569-4356

Dear Mayor Parisi and Council members:

On August 12, 2015, I requested Minutes of the Borough Council executive sessions held between March 23, 2012 and June 10, 2015 except those for January 16, 2013 and February 13, 2013.  (I did not request the minutes from January 16, 2013 and February 13, 2013 because I have already posted them on my blog.)

In her August 21, 2015 response, Borough Administrator and Clerk Lisette M. Duffy provided me with the minutes of the executive sessions held on April 17, 2013; January 15, 2014; March 12, 2014; October 6, 2014 and November 12, 2014.   As for the remainder of the minutes, Duffy explained:
All remaining minutes (not included in the e-mail) are being reviewed by the Borough Attorney and will be provided to the Mayor and Council for their approval.  Once voted on, the approved the minutes [sic] will be available to the public.  As per your request, I can e-mail you the additional minutes once voted on. I anticipate all minutes will be voted on within the next 2 months.
Englewood Cliffs apparent cannot--in August 2015--produce minutes from more than two years ago. For example, the Borough Council went into executive session at its March 13, 2013 caucus meeting but those minutes, although within the scope of my August 12, 2015 request, were not disclosed. Those minutes, among many others, are apparently "being reviewed by the Borough Attorney" to be voted on "within the next two months."

I find the desultory manner in which the Borough keeps its executive session minutes unacceptable, especially given the Borough's past problems with meeting minutes.  In her April 13, 2015 article "Englewood Cliffs brings mystery over missing minutes to an end," Kim Lueddeke reported that the Borough's 2011 meeting minutes--both public and executive--"never existed."  While all the minutes I am presently seeking are from meetings that took place after 2011, the fact that the Borough lost a years worth of it minutes should have caused the Council to tighten up the process by which its minutes are recorded, approved and maintained.

Also, see Chris Neidenberg's February 16, 2015 Northern Valley Press article "Five years of closed meeting minutes remain sealed."  In this article--written more than six months ago--Duffy, in response to Ms. McMorrow's request for five years worth of executive minutes, told McMorrow that the bulk of those minutes "will be released upon review by the mayor and council.  This will take some time, but those that are approved will be provided to you."  This is essentially the same refrain that Duffy is repeating to me six months later. Also in Neidenberg's article, Borough Attorney E. Carter Corriston, Sr. acknowledged that the Borough is "way behind on approving [its] minutes" and that he "is working on it."

With all due respect, the Borough Council has had ample time to review the executive session minutes within the scope of my request.  If I believed that waiting two more months, as Duffy requests, would cause the minutes to be disclosed, I'd be willing to wait.  Unfortunately, the Borough's election to dither during the past six months instead of getting its store in order causes me to believe that waiting another two months would be a waste of time.

Accordingly, I need for the Borough's indecisiveness to stop and for it do whatever needs to be done to get the 2013 and 2014 executive minutes within the scope of my August 12, 2015 request ready for disclosure, either in full or as redacted, by its September 9, 2015 meeting.  If there are any minutes within the scope of my request that, like the 2011 minutes, "don't exist," I ask that the Council come clean and just admit which minutes don't exist at the September 9, 2015 meeting. If the Council declines my invitation and continues to dither, I will enlist the aid of a Superior Court Judge to help refocus the Council's, Ms. Duffy's and Mr. Corriston's attention and priorities.

Very truly yours,

John Paff

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