Barnegat Township has agreed to settle a lawsuit introduced in opposition to the township by Charles Cunliffe, who alleged that officials violated the open up community meetings act. The $7,000 settlement total will be utilized to Cunliffe’s attorney’s costs and court docket costs.
Previous July, Cunliffe filed a lawsuit in Ocean County Outstanding Courtroom in opposition to the township and the township committee for failure to abide by the N.J. Division of Community Affairs directive for digital general public conferences. In accordance to the plaintiff, in March the DCA issued official steerage relating to community conferences in the course of the pandemic.
“All cities have been to provide the community with the prospect to show up at virtual public meetings,” said Cunliffe, who, with running mate Peg Houle, ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat candidate in the township committee race.
He stated in most digital meetings, both equally officers and citizens take part from their homes. But Cunliffe said what Barnegat did was maintain the assembly in city corridor with committee associates and qualified workers unfold aside to sustain social distancing. For the reason that there was no general public participation, residents who had any reviews ended up instructed to e mail remarks to the township clerk prior to the conference. Rather of people today coming to the microphone to speak, Clerk Michele Rivers read their statements aloud.
“The township committee was free to answer, but then the public could not reply again,” mentioned Cunliffe. “I’m not the only human being who (was) crucial of this exercise. This deprived the public to take part in actual time.”
In Oct, the committee went again to in-particular person meetings, albeit with restricted community attendance due to the governor’s govt get limiting the assembly place to 25 p.c of the allowable capability.
Mayor John Novak explained the township’s insurance policy carrier built the settlement offer.
“The settlement entirely vindicates us,” he explained. “I knew this accommodate had no advantage from the beginning. Every little thing we have accomplished is absolutely appropriate, and we ended up in compliance with the Open up Meetings Act.”
Cunliffe claimed it was a honest settlement.
“My motives had been not economic,” he claimed. “All I was seeking was true-time participation at public conferences. If the township has to go back to digital conferences, I hope they have a mechanism in which people today can participate in actual time.” —E.E.