January 3rd Council Meeting Summary
Updated: Jan 13, 2022
Last night we had Council meeting. We once again went past 11:30 pm with our meeting! Here are the highlights.
The first meeting of the year brings a lot of resolutions to re-appoint our professionals and establish financial controls. On our professionals, I voted to re-appoint the Township Attorney, Township Engineering firm, Township auditor. However, I am concerned that we have no annual review process for these services. I believe we need a process to establish goals for these professionals for the year and then engage in a year-end review process with each vendor prior to re-appointment. Last night we also had a conversation on when it was appropriate to go out to bid for these services, and we agreed as a group to do a mid-2022 review to determine if going out to bid for these services was necessary.
Last night we ended up introducing 4 ordinances. Two of them did not follow our recent process of discussing them first in New Business. I do want us to follow that process for all ordinances as it results in a better work product and in my experience helps to eliminate errors in codification.
The first ordinance introduced is to make a change on how the Environmental Commission members are appointed. The change is to allow the Mayor, not the Manager, to make the appointment. This change is being made as apparently our current process is not compliant with state statutes.
The second introduced ordinance is to change how claims are handled in the Township. This ordinance is to codify the process to get paid by the Township with what we are actually doing. Our current law is out of date.
The third and fourth ordinances are to set the salaries for several non-union positions for 2021 and 2022. They were introduced at the very very end of the meeting.
For all four ordinances, a public hearing will be held at the next meeting on January 24th. Comments on any ordinance can be sent to the Council by using the link here: https://www.veronanj.org/council. You can find a copy of the ordinances here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilmeetings .
We passed all of our resolutions. Included in that was the establishment of the Multicultural Inclusion and Accessibility Advisory Committee for one year and the adoption of a mission statement for the Committee, which reads "Verona's vibrant community proudly welcomes all residents, business owners, employees, and visitors. Together we are working toward being a truly inclusive place where our policies, services, and programs meet the needs of all people".
We did receive several comments and questions on the new committee. The committee at this time is advisory only - meaning anything they want to do needs to be approved by the Council. They will make recommendations to the Township Council in two areas. One is in regards to diverse cultural, economic, and social issues within the community. The second is to propose solutions to ensure accessibility for all community members for our services and programs. In addition the committee will assist both the Director of Administration and Economic Development and the Director of Community Services with the organization, coordination, research and management actions in the Community as it relates to multicultural inclusion and accessibility. In plain speak that means that the volunteers on this committee will assist township employees if they are needed to help plan events and activities or research solutions for accessibility.
The committee is temporary and has no budget. There are no plans at this time to hire any consultants. If the committee wanted to hire a consultant that would need to be approved by the Council and budget appropriated. The members of the committee will be appointed by the Council, hopefully at the first meeting in February. We will open up the application for residents to apply for the Committee very soon. The Committee meetings will be public, so anyone can participate. We do envision this committee working similarly to Sustainable Verona where many residents participate in the meetings even if they are not officially appointed as committee members (as we only have 6 slots).
Overall, the entire Council expressed solid support for both the Committee and the mission statement. In particular I want to thank Mayor Roman for his comments which you can hear round 1 hr 10 min into the meeting. I want to thank once again the residents who volunteered their time this fall to help us develop the mission statement. If any residents have any further concerns or suggestions whatsoever please feel free to reach out to the Council and we would be happy to discuss.
Finally, we did have an unusual vote at the end of the public meeting at around 1 hr 45 minutes, As a matter of process, when we discuss specific personnel matters, the employee that is being discussed is notified, and they have the option to require that the conversation happens in open session and not closed session. Last night our Township Municipal Clerk elected to have a conversation in public that related to her "job performance, compensation, and potential disciplinary action".
The conversation in public, that was led by Mayor Roman and Councilman Tamburro, was very brief. I did raise my concerns with the process and asked that we speak with our attorney and with members of the insurance fund that handles litigation against the Township, but that request was not honored. Councilwoman Holland also raised concerns on the process. In the end, it appears that with a vote of 3-2 the Council voted to hire special outside council to conduct an investigation of an incident. Councilwoman Holland and I voted against this action.
We did have a lengthy Executive Session. I will say that we are getting prepared to interview candidates for the Township Manager position, and we are all very excited to meet several qualified candidates in the next two weeks!
Any comments for the Council should be emailed to all of us here: https://www.veronanj.org/council.