SP Council Discusses Adoption of 2013 Council Rules and Regulations

The adoption of the 2013 council rules and regulations led to a lengthy discussion by members of the council at the Jan. 29 meeting.


The Scotch Plains council discussed the adoption of four rules and regulations that were not fully followed during the past administration at the Jan. 29 council meeting.

Mayor Kevin Glover suggested these regulations before his term began in an effort to create a mores streamlined process.

The rules are as follows:

  • The Clerk will now read the Open Public Meetings Act Statement, call for the Pledge to the Flag, introduce the Councilmember leading the invocation and proceed to roll call.

  • The Deputy Mayor will make the initial motion on all items up for vote/introduction/final adoption on the agenda. The second will be assigned prior to the meeting.

  • The resolutions will not be read at the meeting during adoption of the New Business Consent Agenda. Beginning with the January 1, 2013 agenda, all resolutions will be linked to the agenda on the website. The public will be able to review the Resolutions as they are provided to the Council, prior to the meeting.

  • Upon introduction and final adoption of the Ordinance, the Clerk will provide the “layman’s terms” explanation for the ordinance.

According to the Township Attorney Judy Verrone, based on what she has seen in other municipalities it is common for the consent agenda is moved as a block.

“I understand the rational behind it,” she added. “I don’t see anything unusual.”

Glover added that everything the township is planning to do in terms of rules and regulations is consistent with what other townships have embraced and followed.

Councilman Bo Vastine brought up his concerns with the council’s new adoption of these rules; he felt the second rule eliminated the participation the majority of council members.

He noted that previously the process of making motions and putting forward the business of the township was divided equally among members of the council and he felt that this proposal only gave some of the council members the right of seconding and voting on a particular issue.

Vastine provided the example that say he were involved with a certain program the town was looking into and then it was brought to the council, he would not have the authority to make that motion or discussion and clarification about what the program is about.

He added that his issue with the third rule was that not everyone was online and therefore this wasn’t beneficial for the entire population of the town.

Vastine stated that if it is the new administrations goal to be transparent, he does not understand why it would be a problem to read a brief description of the resolutions at the council meetings.

In regards to the last regulation on the list, Vastine said that the council’s involvement and input on these issues is what provides the town with direct interaction with their elected officials.

“Based on what your proposing here… there’s really no reason for most of us to show up at these meetings if we don’t have any involvement in the process,” he stated.

Councilman Marcus agreed with Vastine’s statements and said he thinks all council people should be involved. He added that he is not opposed to streamlining the meetings but would like to see the council explain what they are voting on.

“We quite frankly owe it to the public to explain what we are voting for in terms of that consent agenda,” Marcus said.

In light of Councilman Vastine’s comment that not all residents have a computer or Internet access, Deputy Mayor Colleen Gialanella suggested the agenda items be available on TV-34, in the clerk’s office and at the library.

Glover pointed out that every item will still have the opportunity to be discussed and these regulations are simply protocol, which he said he does not cause any transparency problems. 

“If someone has something to add to that discussion they’ve never been denied,” he said. “Nor do these current rules prohibit anybody at anytime from commenting on it.”

Also, Glover added that if a council member worked closely on a particular item, as Vastine mentioned, they could provide their opinion and explanations during their commentary.

The adoption of the 2013 Rules and Regulations was only discussed at Tuesday evening’s meeting and has yet to be passed.

Check back with scotchplains.patch.com for more on the Jan. 29 Council Meeting.

Holden MaGroin January 30, 2013 at 07:34 PM
I'm Holden MaGroin and I am for streamlining. However I think it's important that, at a minimum, the citizens hear a description of each item that is being voted on. If an item is important enough to rise to the level of a council vote, then it's important enough to be explained or at least summarized. As far as who introduces what and who the seconder is, I look at that as not important. If Vastine was to introduce each one and Beckerman was to second them all, it doesn't seem to matter beyond camera time. If I'm understanding the article correctly, this process should still allow for each councilman/woman to weigh in with their opinion on the resolutions. I'm hoping that is the case because I believe it's important that we hear their support or nonsupport and why on these things. I also don't agree with just linking the resolutions on-line. Yes, we as citizens have some responsibility to know what is going on, but not talking about them at the meetings seems to make it harder for us and not easier. I also have a problem with having an invocation (read prayer) prior to the meetings, but that can be for a different discussion.
Nicole Bitette January 30, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Thanks for your comment, Holden. Yes according to Glover each council member will still be able to weigh in on the resolutions.
Just the facts January 30, 2013 at 10:07 PM
I believe that Robert's Rules of Order allow any Council Member to request that an item be removed from the consent agenda for the purpose of discussion and that no items involving a roll call vote e.g. financial expenditures, can be included in the constent agenda. This is a common practice for many meetings and if these two items are understood and acknowledge it should also eliminate any concerns that items are being voted on without full input. It's amazing how many things must be voted on that are "routine" but that being the case, there is nothing to prevent it being done as just one vote via a consent agenda.
Jennifer February 01, 2013 at 03:45 PM
I agree with Holden about the prayer. I attended a council meeting and heard the Lord being invoked fairly often during the invocation. Isn't there some law that says a moment of silence is ok but prayer shouldn't be?
bgporter February 01, 2013 at 06:33 PM
in my opinion, that law is the establishment clause of the 1st amendment, but confusing rulings from the SCOTUS make things less clear -- they created a narrow set of exceptions for this based on 'that's the way we've always done things'. There's a good and brief overview of the situation here: http://ffrf.org/faq/state-church/item/14015-prayers-at-government-meetings including a checklist of things that may indicate that these prayers have stepped over the line constitutionally.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »