file photo by Boyd Loving
Albert himself created a document that forbids any electronic communication by elected officials during public meetings. Albert, Paul, and Gwenn have all admitted to violating this. It is Resolution 13-87. Go to this link on the Blog:
Ridgewood Council must follow meetings protocol
To the Editor:
In response to concerns voiced by several residents regarding Village Council members’ adherence to provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act, the council unanimously adopted Resolution 13-87, “Village Council Meetings and Communications Protocol,” in April of 2013. This document, which was developed by the council with the very best of intentions, is a list of “dos and don’ts” for the five elected council members to follow when discussing, investigating, or preparing for deliberation of municipal business.
Item No. 4 in this list reads as follows: “Telephonic or electronic communication between or among Council members or between a Council member and a member of the public during public meetings is prohibited.” In the 2013 public work sessions at which this document was edited, the clause prohibiting contact with members of the public was specifically inserted.
At both the Oct. 22 and Nov. 5, 2014, Village Council meetings, it was revealed that some members have their telephones and/or tablets on during meetings, and receive and reply to messages from family members. Resolution 13-87.4 does not allow for any exceptions to the prohibition, and family members are certainly members of the public. Both Mayor Aronsohn and Deputy Mayor Pucciarelli have clearly indicated that they have no problem breaking this rule in order to communicate with their families. As one resident stated on Nov. 5, this does not meet the high standards they set for themselves.
Our Village Council members put in long hours conducting business for Ridgewood, so one can imagine their temptation to be in touch with family during an evening meeting. Unfortunately, when their own rule is being broken, with private communications occurring during public meetings, members of the community are left with no way of knowing whether electronic exchanges might be taking place regarding substantive matters on the council agenda. If such interactions were to take place, this would seem to contradict the principles of the Open Public Meetings Act.
It is my hope that, moving forward, the Village Council will start following this document to the letter of their own law. Having telephones and tablets turned off and out of reach during these public meetings would completely eliminate any hint of impropriety.
Anne LaGrange Loving