by Phil Stilton
JACKSON-Township councilman Robert Nixon had nothing to say at the December 13th council meeting when confronted by resident Elenor Hannum about a political caucus meeting held on Saturday, December 3rd at the law offices of Gilmore and Monahan in Toms River.
The meeting was held just days after township Republicans blasted the council for over matters including election results, future plans for the township and appointments to zoning and planning boards.
A few days later, the meeting was held, but the attendees did not realize they were being secretly videotaped entering and exiting the building by a still unknown videographer.
Attendees of the meeting included the township council, mayor and MUA commissioners Clara Glory, Todd Porter and William Allman, all of whom are also members of the Jackson Republican Club board. Glory was also the political campaign manager for Ken Bressi, Barry Calogero and Rob Nixon’s 2016 election campaign.
“Was there a secret meeting on December 3rd, 2016,” Hannum asked the council.
“The council separately from our political roles, we’re permitted to meet with anybody in a political context that we want to so long as township business is not discussed outside of that context,” Council President Rob Nixon responded. “I’m not going to discuss when we meet…political meetings are political meetings, they’re not council meetings.”
“Can you please tell me where this meeting took place?” Hannum asked Nixon.
“I’m not going to discuss the meeting,” Nixon responded.
Hannum disclosed to the township council that she was shown video by a witness of the entire council, mayor and three members of the MUA enter the offices of the township attorney.
Nixon told Hannum the meeting did not violate New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act.
According to the state of New Jersey, political caucus meetings and chance encounters of members of public bodies, or gatherings attended by or open to all members of three or more similar public bodies are not covered by the Law.
Even if the council did discuss township business in violation of the Open Public Meetings Law, it may subsequently convene another public meeting in conformity with the requirements of the law and reconsider the public business which had previously been discussed and acted upon. The intent of the Law is to ensure that public business is discussed and acted upon in public. The “Sunshine Law” does not attempt to inhibit the public body from properly performing its governmental functions.
While it may not look good for the elected and appointed officials in attendance in the public eye, there are no laws preventing such a meeting.
In the event that an individual believes the council violated the act, the law permits the person to file a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court within 45 days or report the incident to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
Members in attendance could be fined up to $100 for the first offense.
Nixon however, continued to refuse to divulge the to the public the topics of the meeting.
“We can meet ten times per month, it doesn’t matter,” Nixon said before shutting down Hannum. “Do you have anything else to add to this?”
“No,” Hannum said.
“Thank you,” Nixon snapped back as Hannum ended her public comment.
The meeting was recorded in its entirety and published to YouTube. Photo: YouTube. Video capture of Jackson Council Meeting.