I have threatened to sue the Clinton Township (Hunterdon County) Board of Education for violating the Open Public Meetings Act in a way that is new to me–by passing a verbal, closed session motion/resolution during a public meeting that differs substantially from the version of the motion/resolution that is recorded in the meeting’s minutes.
By comparing the audio of the Board’s meetings with the written minutes, I have found several examples where the Board passed a simple motion, in the nature of “I move that we go into executive session,” but then recorded a much more verbose version of the motion in the meeting minutes. One of the main purposes of N.J.S.A. 10:4-13, which requires that public body pass a resolution in public before going into executive or closed session, is to inform the members of the public in attendance of nature of the matters that the body is going to privately discuss. For a public body to simply say that it’s going into executive session and then include the details of what topics were privately discussed in the meeting’s minutes–which won’t be publicly available until weeks later–works against that purpose.
To make matters worse, the resolutions that eventually appear in the Clinton Board’s public minutes are themselves defective because they give the public no meaningful sense of what topics were privately discussed. For example, the Board’s March 26, 2012 resolution simply states that “matters of personnel and legal rendered confidential” were discussed in closed session.
I have invited the Board to discuss the proposed lawsuit at its May 14, 2012 meeting and have suggested that it could resolve the matter by agreeing to use my “model form” of closed resolution which is on-line here.