For personnel discussion about the appointment of new City Clerk Juanita Joyner, the City Council went into an executive session on September 18.
But that move now looks to have been an improper and illegal one, involving an executive session that lacked a proper resolution detailing why it was needed and when its contents could be made public.
In addition, sources with a legal background reviewed tapes of the session, and said it went so far off topic that it should not have been discussed during a single executive session, or an executive session at all.
New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act sets forth guidelines for bodies going into executive session during meetings to ensure government operates in an open way indicative of a democratic process, but still retains the ability to discuss sensitive issues in a private setting.
These guidelines come into play with the recent toungue-lashing that Councilman Jim Coston received after he released recordings of an executive session to a member of the public without following normal procedure.
The letter of the OPMA requires a resolution detailing the topics of the executive session to be drafted prior to the session, along with information detailing under what conditions and at what time the contents of the session may be made public.
Also, officials from the clerk’s office are required to go through recordings or minutes and remove sensitive material before the release of the contents of the executive session.
Councilman Coston certainly did not follow the proper protocol with the release of executive session tapes.
But it turns out this whole problem may be a moot point because City Council itself and its mysterious special counsel seemingly did not follow the initial protocol in going into executive session.
During the session an official from the clerk’s office brought up the last city clerk, and council members went as far as discussing their the relationship between City Council and the administration, according to tapes of the session, demonstrating the obfuscation of what should have been a public discussion.
To make matters worse, City Clerk officials said Wednesday that no such resolution was passed on the day of the executive session, and that no such resolution exists.