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Covering Hamilton and Robbinsville townships in-depth for The Trentonian. I can be reached at (609) 989-7800 ext. 207 or (609) 468-6962. Email me at mmacagnone@trentonian.com or follow me @awisefool.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hamilton Township School Board president confident exec sessions cover proper issues

After the Hamilton Township School Board voted not to record its executive sessions, it is unclear whether some discussions in those meetings should be in the public.

Before the executive session of Monday night's board meeting, board president Patricia Del Giudice said she was confident the board handled its executive sessions well. She said she was not concerned the board discussed issues in those sessions that were supposed to be public.

The person in charge of that, district attorney William Burns, she said monitored their discussions and made certain only the correct issues came up.

It should be noted though, that Burns could not recall the list of appropriate subject matter for executive sessions earlier in the meeting.

During the board's discussion of board member Jeff Hewitson's proposal to record executive sessions, Burns said he did not know "off the top of my head" the list of appropriate topics for such sessions. He said he would be able to get a list of such subjects.

The board had arranged to discuss those issues Monday night at last week's meeting.

The motion to record the meeting, defeated on a 4-to-3 vote, was meant to address concerns that the board had routinely discussed issues that should have been addressed in the public portion of the meeting.

“I think it is very important. We talk about too many things in executive session that don’t belong there and should be in public,” Hewitson said before the vote. “We are talking about transparency. What is more transparent than taping executive session?”

The executive sessions take up a considerable portion of the length of most meetings. At last week’s meeting, the board’s executive session lasted more than two hours out of a five-hour meeting.
Board members discuss contract negotiations, personnel issues and legal matters at executive sessions, as well as confidential matters.

During the discussion of Hewitson's motion Kelly Addler, the attorney for Capehart and Scatchard advising the board, said the board recording its meetings would be more trouble that it was worth, because different portions of the tapes would become public documents at different times.

She also said the board should not continue its practice of recording meetings when other board members are absent. It is unclear whether the board recorded its Monday night executive session, which lasted more than an hour.

2 Comments:

Blogger Peaceseeker said...

Dear Mr. Macagnone,
Thanks very much for covering the Hamilton BoE's activities. We are coming up on a very important election that has the potential to help turn things around in our district. I urge all voters in Hamilton to take the time to learn about the three slates that have formed and the two incumbents that are running. The top questions about transparency that voters need to ask them themselves include, (1) Who is committed to changing the culture of this board from one based on back room wheeling and dealing to one that is openly accountable to the public? (2) What are the candidates doing now in regard to fundraising that will make them beholden to any political parties, unions, or special interests? (3) What are the candidates proposing to do if elected—do they have an actionable platform that addresses conflict of interest and appearance of conflict?
Independent candidates Jen Barnock-Riddell and George Fisher are committed to students and will not tolerate adult wheeling and dealing. Learn more at http://www.cleanslatehamilton.com/
Dr. Kimberly Boller
Hamilton, NJ

October 2, 2012 at 9:29 PM 
Blogger Michael Macagnone said...

Dr. Boller,(and any other readers who may be on here in these late hours of the night)

I will be writing more about these issues as well as the upcoming board elections in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

October 2, 2012 at 10:39 PM 

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