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Shocking footage obtained by FAA News shows Harrison Pfeffer, a member of the Lakewood Board of Fire Commissioners, claiming that "this Board is not required by law to allow public comment!"

The New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) begs to differ. Seems that our elected officials need a refresher in this matter.

Commissioner Pfeffer said this shocking statement after Aron Hirsch, who previously ran against Pfeffer, asked to speak on a meeting agenda item.

In a stunning upset, Mr. Hirsch received 6,500 votes in his recent campaign against Pfeffer.

The Senator Byron M. Baer Open Public Meetings Act (NJSA 10:4-7) goes so far as to "find and declare that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of public bodies, and to witness in full detail all phases of the deliberation, policy formulation, and decision making of public bodies, is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process; that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society, and hereby declares it to be the public policy of this State to insure the right of its citizens to have adequate advance notice of and the right to attend all meetings of public bodies at which any business affecting the public is discussed or acted upon in any way..."

So, keeping those meetings open to the public and allowing us to observe what they are up to isn't simply "good politics." It's the legit law.

And quite an important law at that.

The Act (N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(a) also codifies the right to present public comments during public meetings as follows:

A... governing body... shall be required to set aside a portion of every meeting... for public comment on any governmental... issue that a member of the public feels may be of concern to the residents of the municipality...

In other words, our local governing bodies are required to keep their meetings open to the public, and provide a portion of every meeting for public comment. Specifically, the public comment portion is required to be open on any governmental issue that a member of the public feels may be of concern to the residents of the municipality.

Got that?

Great, because following the OPMA is not one bit optional.

N.J.S.A. 10:4-15(a-b) provides that:

Any action taken by a public body at a meeting which does not conform with the provisions of this act shall be voidable.. in.. Superior Court, which proceeding may be brought by any person within 45 days after the action sought to be voided has been made public.....If the court shall find that the action was taken at a meeting which does not conform to the provisions of this act, the court shall declare such action void.

It is absolutely mind boggling how Commissioner Pfeffer can state that the BOFC "is not required by law to allow public comment!"

Watch the full video clip below:

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Harrison is a dirty politician. He follows in the footsteps of his older brother, which is notorious for shutting the public out of the public process. The shocking part of this episode is that the commission’s attorney, Ian Goldman, remained silent throughout this travesty, although he gets paid to make sure the commissioners follow the law. I think this rises to an ethics complaint with the Bar against Ian (Adam Pfeffer’s partner in crime) and an ethics complaint against Harrison with the division of local government services.