Cape May government too secretive, critics say

The police chief was ousted with no notice to the public and one city councilman quit following a March 3 vote that left even the mayor wondering what was happening. Failure to release resolutions to the public prior to votes and an overall lack of transparency are longtime problems, say critics. The city doesn’t post resolutions on its website prior to meetings like many other towns do. – NJFOG

Press of Atlantic City
May 1, 2015
by Richard Degener

CAPE MAY — A resolution on City Council’s March 3 meeting agenda vaguely referred to then-police Chief Robert Sheehan.

The title of the resolution provided almost no information. It merely said: “A resolution pertaining to Robert E. Sheehan, Jr. as the Cape May City Chief of Police.”

A short time later, Sheehan was no longer the police chief, after a contentious 3-2 council vote. The public didn’t even know his job was on the line. The public never got a chance to comment before the resolution was voted on. One councilman quit at the meeting, and now there is a lawsuit over the decision.

There are also questions about whether the city needs to be more transparent when it comes to government business.

Even former Mayor Jerry Gaffney, who knows municipal government, seemed stunned just minutes after the March 3 council vote as the public tried to figure out what just happened.

“Do we have a chief? What are we doing in layman’s terms?” Gaffney asked the council.

Told by City Manager Bruce MacLeod that Sheehan was no longer chief but was still a police captain, Gaffney was still confused.

“It sounds like something is happening below the surface the public should know about,” said Gaffney.

Nobody will ever know for sure what the outcome would have been if the city, like a growing number of towns, released its resolutions before they are voted on.

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