LAKEWOOD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION IGNORES PUBLIC COMMENT, SCORES LEAST ON TRANSPARENCY

At this morning's Lakewood Development Corporation meeting (which is the subject our previous article at https://www.faanews.com/2022/08/township-creates-75000-shuttle-bus.html), the Board clerk advised that no emails were submitted for public comment.


However, emails obtained by FAA show that actually, a member of the public did try to get an important message to Board members prior to their vote to create a $75,000 Shuttle Bus Liasion position.


According to the public notice advertised by the LDC on August 11th, public comment would be accepted by email only until 8 hours prior to the meeting. During the meeting, public comment is only accepted over the phone.


At 12:32am - 9 hours prior to the meeting - the following email was submitted to the LDC meeting comments email:


"Good morning LDC members.


"I am writing regarding your meeting today and the proposal to hire a shuttle bus liasion.


"Earlier this week, I sent you an email through the Township website contact page asking you to send me the resolution and agreement for this proposed shuttle bus liasion.


"I did not receive any response from you.


"I also called your office a number of times in attempt to get more information about the resolution that you are proposing to vote on. None of my calls were answered.


"Other boards in the township post their resolutions online prior to voting on them. The LDC should do the same.


"I oppose the proposal to hire this shuttle bus liasion. However, I am unable to properly present my entire case now because you have not released these documents to me even after I sent you an email asking you for them.


"I now request that you postpone your vote on this resolution until after you publish the documents on your website so I can have a chance to review them prior to you voting on them.


"Thank you!"


-----


At 1:09am, David N. Klein, Executive Director of the LDC responded:


"We posted notice of this meeting in the Asbury Park Press that ran on 8/16 and on the Lakewood township website that was posted on 8/11. The agenda for this meeting is for this one item only. 


'You are invited to attend the public portion of the meeting to voice your concerns prior to the vote. 


"The LDC does not post resolutions prior to a board meeting, we do post the agenda. This public notice is the agenda for this one item.


"I apologize, I am not aware of an email or phone calls from you to our LDC office. We are generally very prompt in returning calls."


---


1:31am Response from the commenter:


"This is only the public notice.


"Please send me the resolution that the Board is scheduled to vote on, as well as the agreement for this liasion position, and the proposals that you received for this position."


2:47am Additional response from the commenter:


"I again reiterate that I oppose the proposal to hire this shuttle bus liasion. However, I am unable to properly present my entire case now because you have not released these documents to me even after I sent you an email asking you for them.


"I now request that you postpone your vote on this resolution until after you publish the documents on your website so I can have a chance to review them prior to you voting on them."


----


6:40am Response from David Klein:


"The only mechanism available to you to request a postponement of the vote, and to request a copy of the resolution, is to voice your opposition at the public comment portion of the meeting prior to the vote. 

Once again you are welcome to attend the meeting this morning, it starts at 9:30 a.m. per the public notice."


6:48am email from David Klein:


"Can you please provide the method you sent this email, because I rechecked my email inbox and have no record of an email from you."


7:06am email from David Klein:


"The only thing being voted on at this meeting is to create the project. This is not an award of contract. 

I can send you the RFP which was available in April to the public with detail of the requirements for proposals, and the resolution for the vote this morning although that is not the LDCs protocol. Once again we post the agenda before our meetings, we've never had a complaint like this before."


7:14am email from David Klein:


"Attached is the original RFP and the resolution to be voted on today. Once again, the vote today is just to create this project. The award of contract will likely take place at the Sept. 6 meeting that you are welcome to attend and voice your opposition to whomever wins the bid and would subsequently be awarded the contract.

I will engage our board attorney to ask if it is appropriate to send you proposals received in connection with the RFP which I'm not sure is public domain."


--------


These emails were not read during the public portion of the meeting, rather, the Board members were advised simply that "no emails were submitted for public comment".


11:00am email from the commenter


"What a chutzpah!


"Prior to 8 hours before the LDC meeting, I sent in public comment. David Klein knew that I sent in public comment because he responded to my first email.


"Yet, at the meeting, my email was not read into the record and it was completely ignored as if no public comment was received for the meeting!


"This is false and an absolute trampling of my rights!"


--------


11:52am email response from David Klein:


"I'm sorry that your are upset. You did not provide your residence address as stipulated in the Rules for Remote Public Meetings (attached) and was provided via link on the Public Notice (attached). It's LDC policy not to accept public comment from anonymous sources.


"I welcomed you to attend the live web meeting to voice your objection as I stated in our email conversation."


--------


After further reviewing the matter, indeed, the public notice did include a link to the LDC's Rules for Remote Public Meetings, which state that "written comments shall contain the person’s name and address", however, it is extremely odd that David Klein did not specifically inform the member of the public of this item - despite the lengthy email exchange on the topic of the public comment.


The LDC is where all the wishy-washy land deals (such as "the Monmouth Avenue parking lot" / Kikar Shabbos expansion deal) take place, yet, ironically, the LDC scores the very least of all Township boards on the topic of transparency.


The Township Committee posts online the full packet with the resolutions they will vote on, complete with maps and descriptions, 2-3 days prior to every meeting. The Planning Board and the Zoning Board (after being sued on the issue) post online the plans for all applications prior to their meetings. Even the Lakewood Industrial Commission posts the full packet with resolutions, bills, and statement of accounts prior to their meetings.


However, the LDC only posts the statutorily required notice of their meetings and 1 page version of the agenda prior to the meeting. They only post resolutions after the meeting - by then it is too late to comment on them.


Another issue with the LDC is their process for accepting OPRA requests.


The Lakewood Township clerk accepts and processes OPRA for requests for all municipal departments and Boards - except the LDC.


The LDC has their own OPRA form which is, oddly, not posted on their website page. In fact, on the bottom of their page at https://www.lakewoodnj.gov/department/uez, it has a contact box and on top it states that "OPRA requests must be sent to the Township Clerk". This is in fact incorrect, as the Township Clerk responded saying "The township doesn't maintain Lakewood Developement Council records. Please submit your request for LDC records by clicking the link provided http://bit.ly/LDC_OPRA_Request_Form".


This lack of transparency is not only unhelpful and confusing, it also causes delays in obtaining access to public records - because it can take several days for the Township Clerk to give this response.


Patricia Komsa was the former Executive Director of the LDC. When she advanced to open the Township's Human Resources department, David Klein took over at the LDC as a "part-time" position at a salary of $50,000. In 2017, at his request to LDC Board Member Rabbi Moshe Zev Weissberg, the LDC increased this salary to $75,000.


Apparently, this full-time salary even includes responding at both 1:09am and 6:40am to emails over this important topic of public comment!


Final Thought: According to additional emails obtained by FAA, complaints about the lack of posting resolutions online prior to the meeting was already brought to David Klein's attention back in August 2020. 


At the time, David Klein responded in an email:


"I see we need to post the meeting packet on the township website. The full meeting packet is now on the UEZ department page including those resolutions."


What changed since then? Does the LDC have something they are hiding?? 


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