We expressly built our platform around the values we believe are most essential to good government: Access, Transparency, Inclusivity and Accountability.
Immersing ourselves in Township government operations, we have learned that several key township committees, particularly those associated with the acquisition of open space, have a long history of violating the NJ Open Public Meetings Act, also known as the “Sunshine Law.” This law was passed in 1975 to protect the public’s right to attend all meetings where government business will be discussed, and to ensure the availability of public records of all such meetings after the fact.
After attending dozens of Township Committee and commission meetings over the past year, we submitted several Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests asking for relevant meeting minutes going back to 2014. We were shocked when the Township acknowledged that many records were not available.
As a result of these findings, Readington Township is now under investigation by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor for failing “to keep reasonably comprehensible minutes of all of its meetings and make them promptly available to the public.” The County Prosecutor has expressly directed the Township to comply with state law, requiring them to take corrective measures to ensure that the “records of Township and its Committee meetings be accessible to the public” in the future.
These violations have occurred under the watch of current Mayor Ben Smith, who has been a member of the Township Committee for 3 years. (serving as mayor since January 2017.)
In addition, we have learned that several committees are not following their charters and bylaws, and the ultimate decision-making process and authority of how the Township spends your hard-earned tax dollars on open space remains unclear.
Open Space Advisory Board, chaired by our opponent Juergen Huelsebusch,is an offending committee that, under his leadership, has overstepped its legal responsibilities laid out in the township bylaws. The Open Space Advisory Board does NOT have authority to acquire properties, yet they do. Acquisition is the responsibility of the Environmental Commission, according to our township bylaws. One can only conclude that Smith and Huelsebusch have been, and continue to be, comfortable operating without accountability and transparency.
Violations of the Open Public Meeting Law, like those discovered by our campaign, unnecessarily expose the Township to potential legal liabilities. Worse, however, these violations degrade the Township residents by depriving them of vital information that belongs to them.
We discovered these violations as a direct result of our own eagerness for Access and Transparency, and in doing so, we have indisputably established that we are more committed to these critical values than our opponents.
When elected to Township Committee we will immediately implement a review of all operating charters and make sure that each part of town governance is in compliance with state regulations and is operating in full transparency.
If you, too, believe in those values and wish to see them advanced in Readington on your behalf and for your benefit, vote for Esakoff and Fiore on November 6th. We pledge to continue our vigilance and commitment to Access, Transparency, Inclusivity and Accountability in Readington Township’s government.