Report: Open Public Meetings Act Violation Possible in Hightstown

Four council members discussed resolutions over email, according to a report in the Trenton Times.

Four Hightstown council members exchanged emails about two resolutions, possibly violating the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act, according to a report in the Trenton Times.

At a June 18 council meeting Mayor Steven Kirson said members weren’t being transparent and he suspected the act was violated.

“I suspect that the sunshine laws were treaded on between the meetings of May 30 and June 4,” Kirson said at the meeting.

Two resolutions were introduced at a June 4 meeting without public notice, one by council member Gail Doran calling for Borough Hall to be centrally located, and one by council member Susan Bluth, stating the council be kept informed of matters relating to Borough Hall. 

According to the Times report, Doran, Bluth and council members Lynne Woods and Robert Thibault, all exchanged emailed on the resolutions, making a council majority involved.

Thibault and Bluth said in the report that the law was not violated, but retired municipal attorney disagreed. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that it is a Sunshine (Law) violation,” retired attorney Michael Hartsough told the Trenton Times


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Jasha M. Levi July 03, 2012 at 11:27 AM
It may be a naive and perhaps uninformed question, but what is wrong with repairing the flood damage and building if need be additional space on existing property? That is what homeowner do with flood insurance payments. Why add to Highhtstown debt?
Vic Monaco July 03, 2012 at 04:21 PM
This may not be so cut-and-dried as Hartsough reportedly said.
Rob Thibault July 03, 2012 at 05:26 PM
To Vic's comment, here is part of a statement I read at last night's Council meeting: "Either Mr. Hartsough neglected to disclose to the reporter – or the reporter chose to omit – the fact that Mr. Hartsough has a glaring conflict of interest. Mr. Hartsough’s firm, Hartsough, Kenny, Chase & Sullivan and his partner, Gregory Sullivan, represent the Borough of Hightstown, the Police Department and Officer Ben Miller in a Notice of Claim case filed by me against those parties following a ruling by West Windsor Municipal Court Judge Mary Brennan that found “Police Officer Ben Miller undertook an investigation of mayoral candidate Rob Thibault not only for the purpose of discrediting candidate Thibault and influencing the November 2010 Hightstown Borough election in favor of the police department but also in retaliation for the defendant’s exercise of his first amendment right of free speech.” On May 31st, Mr. Hartsough’s firm lost an appeal in the Notice of Claim case in which Appellate Division Judges Fisher and Carchman said in their ruling “The government cannot participate in deception and use that conduct as a basis for denying a litigant procedural benefits that enable him or her to bring a lawsuit against that very defendant.” I will follow Saint Matthew’s advice on this and judge not about the seeming no-brainer conflict of interest. I would, however, suggest that the Times might want to do a bit more vetting of sources..."
rules rule July 03, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Let's see........violations. I hear that word and my mind treads upon thoughts of........taxis, boardinghouses, peeling houses, taxis, thigh high grass on the many foreclosures/houses for sale, taxis, speeders, businesses housed in our residential neighborhoods..........somehow, a Council that's has to pass a resolution to get information doesn't make me feel violated. Makes me feel kind of.....comforted. Good job Council.
Hawkeye July 05, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Four wrongs don't make it right. Obviously this council thinks they are above the Sunshine Law. Rob your words are so self promoting. Get on track , You were elected to serve Hightstown, not attack. Let's try to get something accomplished before the next storm.
terribly tired of this July 05, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Rob, keep up the great work. Hightstown needs someone who will fight for our tax dollar that needs some tweaking on how it is spent.
Stockton Res July 05, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Self-promoting maybe, but it is odd that out of all the lawyers in NJ the paper did somehow find this particular one. Could be coincidence, but... I'm with taxed to the max though. We didn't hear anything about Borough Hall except Lucas, Lucas, Lucas until Council started pushing for more info on it. Bravo Council. It seems they're the only ones who are serving the residents.
Lifelong Hightstown Resident July 11, 2012 at 07:44 PM
As to the violation of the Open Public Meetings Act, perhaps enthusiasm got in the way of better judgement in this case. Let's hope we can get past this issue, roll up our sleeves, and focus on some broader issues like the economic future of our downtown. Am I alone in thinking that it doesn't matter where Borough Hall is? It's the year 2012 and I suspect a majority of the daily business that goes on inside is done over the phone or through the mail. Also, does anyone else recall a representative from the Office of State Planning reviewing the Mill Redevelopment Plan years ago and making a recommendation that the project boundary extend out to Main Street so that it more effectively expands the downtown business district? If Borough Hall were moved elsewhere, this would become possible. As for the Police, I don't know if they like their current location at Lucas but I suspect it's a big improvement over the cramped spaces they had downtown. Let's think a little outside the box folks. Do we think more people will want to visit town for its charming Main Street or for its Borough Hall?
Lifelong Hightstown Resident July 11, 2012 at 08:45 PM
P.S. I didn't mention the Fire Dept because I feel that it's a nice image to see upon entry to our great town and should stay where it is (for response times too). As for Council Meetings, Court, etc., there's no reason why these functions need to be in the CENTER of town. In the end, money unfortunately needs to be spent on borough hall/police/courts improvements but perhaps we should consider the bigger picture and not just stick with what we're used to. Maybe something positive will come from Irene after all.


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