It is that time of year when local governments convene with the newly elected members and re-organize the council assignments. Likewise on January 3, Flemington Boro held its re-org in a manner of speaking.
Every council member very nicely summed up his or her last year, welcomed new members, thanked appropriate persons and talked of the high hopes for the upcoming year. Senior Democrat councilwoman, Sandy Borucki, and Democrat councilwoman, Brooke Liebowitz, were elected Boro council president and vice president, respectively.
Mayor Hauck then turned to that portion of the meeting that deals with the new round of council assignments. As best as I understood, the new Democrat majority had given a list of assignments to the mayor previously and advised they had discussed the assignments with him. The mayor indicated he did not think the list was up for discussion but more a matter of the Democrats informing him of the slate they would endorse by their votes. With four Democrats and two Republicans composing the council, the Democrats can automatically pass what they are inclined to pass, to put the mayor’s read of the situation in context.
Mayor Hauck also submitted his own list of assignments, citing NJ state code that asserts that the mayor appoints with the advice and consent of council. In other words, according to NJ state code, the mayor of a municipality introduces the appointments to council for its advice and consent as opposed to council members submitting a slate of appointments to the mayor, as was done by the Democrat council members. (See NJ State Code online---http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2004/Bills/A3500/3427_I1.PDF.
See section (e).)
When making assignments on Boro council, Mayor Hauck explained that the prior year he established committees composed of members of both political parties to tackle issues in Flemington. He thought this approach kept all council members better informed on all matters for Boro council consideration. Based on his experience of years as Boro clerk, councilman and now mayor, he expressed concern about concentrating the bulk of the workload in the hands of two council members. (Four of our six council members have only one year’s experience or less.) Hunterdon County clerk, Mary Melfi was appointed to head the OEM again. This was the only appointment made that was publicly discussed. Mayor Hauck justified appointing Ms. Melfi who had earlier resigned, citing the devastating Hunter Hills fire last week and the need for an experienced person to handle this type of Boro job. Other prospective appointments were tabled until there was further review of the statutes under question by Boro attorney, Barry Goodman.
Mayor Hauck indicated that in accordance with state code, he was offering his own slate for acceptance or rejection by the council for the record but he indicated he did not intend to force the issue. His intent was to make his position on assignments known for the record. Republican councilwoman, Erica Edwards, wanted to know more about how assignments were traditionally made. Democrat councilman, Mark Legato, indicated he felt this was partisanship but conforming to NJ state code strikes me as just abiding in the laws of NJ. With only one Republican council member at the meeting, the Democrats could have handily passed their slate, overriding the mayor. (Republican Councilman, John Gorman,was absent due to illness.) I did not understand Councilman Legato's comment. Councilwoman Brooke Liebowitz wanted to reconcile the differences, explaining that she wanted council members to be satisfied with their assignments. She suggested the council convene and revisit the assignments together. This plan was adopted. Meanwhile, Boro attorney, Barry Goodman, said he believed at this point in time the mayor’s interpretation was correct but he wanted more time to research state code on this issue and particularly on the issue regarding the appointments to planning board before offering a final opinion. Mayor Hauck had indicated that planning board appointments were made by the mayor and did not require Boro council approval. There were no votes along party lines.
Then they all adjourned to attend the re-org dinner in honor of the re-org that wasn’t.
Again I invite Mayor Hauck and all council members to feel free to contact me with any topics they wish to share with the community. I will do my best to accommodate all requests.
All the best to Boro council in 2008.