Bellmawr Borough Fails to Keep Caucus Meetings Minutes, Suit Claims

Transparency advocate John Paff has filed suit against the Bellmawr Borough Council, which he claims does not record minutes for any of its caucus (workshop) meetings.  In response to Paff’s 2/1/16 OPRA request for 2015 caucus meeting minutes, Borough Clerk Charles Sauter provided only the following short written response:

“Our Caucus meetings are workshops and discussions.
Minutes are not recorded for Caucus.”

Paff said, “I have been doing this for about 20 years and I don’t think I have ever found an instance of a Borough Council or a Municipal Council not keeping meeting minutes at all, or for a class of meetings. I’ve often found meeting minutes that I don’t think are appropriate, or I don’t think are detailed enough, or I don’t think are reasonably comprehensible as required by law. But this is a case where Borough Council just doesn’t keep meeting minutes at all for one of its sets of its meetings, for the work sessions, and that’s very unusual.”    


UPDATE (4/4/2016):  The case has settled.  Paff said of the settlement: “…[I]t will require the Borough to do two things that it hasn’t been doing. The first thing is they have to keep “reasonably comprehensive” minutes of all of its meetings, including its caucus meetings. … The second thing is they have to inform people…at the beginning of each public meeting about the manner in which the “adequate notice” has been provided and they have to specify exactly how they did it. They also have to record a statement to that effect in the meeting minutes. That is also required by law.”


Bellmawr Boro Fails to Keep Caucus Meetings Minutes, Lawsuit Alleges
South Jersey Observer
by Anne Forline
March 4, 2016


The court complaint is available here:    Paff vs. Bellmawr Borough Council


Bellmawr Boro Council Settles Open Public Meeting Violations Lawsuit
South Jersey Observer
by Anne Forline
April 1, 2016


RELATED:  The following is from a South Jersey Observer article covering the June 23, 2016 Bellmawr Borough Council meeting: “Regarding Resolution 06:136:16 authorizing that Resolutions and Ordinances be placed on the Borough website 72 hours prior to the monthly scheduled regular council meeting for the general public, all councilmen voted yes with the exception of Councilman D’Angelo, who abstained.”  While unrelated to keeping meeting minutes, this is a positive step toward transparency.