In a recent Palisades Park Borough Council meeting, a series of contentious issues emerged, highlighting significant challenges within the council’s decision-making processes. The meeting, marked by heated debates and an abrupt ending, saw members of the public and council raise concerns over the council’s transparency and adherence to legal norms, particularly in the absence of the borough attorney.
Central to the meeting’s controversies was the discussion around a resolution involving an architectural drawing for fire safety improvements. The resolution’s contract amount discrepancy, initially noted as $17,000 but later corrected to $14,700, only to be reasserted at the original figure, underscored concerns about the council’s financial oversight. The addition of $4,000 for an emergency response plan, to be discussed in a later session, further complicated the issue.
The debate intensified with a resolution hiring a labor counsel to address employee grievances. The necessity of a professional service agreement for this purpose was discussed, but the absence of the borough attorney during these deliberations was a point of contention. A council member criticized the rushed nature of the resolutions and the lack of opportunity for proper scrutiny and public input, likening it to forcing decisions upon the public. The member claimed to have recieved the resolutions only upon arrival at the meeting, without prior opportunity to consult with an attorney.
In response to these concerns, it was mentioned that the borough attorney had been informed of the meeting but was unable to attend.
The council’s discussion on another resolution concerning the hiring of a vendor for roof replacement to address mold issues, further exemplified these tensions. The same council member reiterated discomfort with proceeding in the absence of the borough attorney, challenging the reliance solely on the mayor’s assurances. The mayor clarified that the attorney’s absence was his own decision and that council meetings could legally proceed without him. However, this did not assuage concerns, especially when the council member revealed they had not received any emails regarding the resolutions and questioned the sudden urgency of these long-standing issues.
The meeting also touched upon Resolution 2023-231, involving the hiring of a traffic engineer. While some members supported the proposal for his reimbursement, Councilman Michael Vietri expressed strong opposition, emphasizing the need for legal counsel in such decisions.
Public participation in the meeting further illuminated the council’s challenges. A member of the public questioned the legality of holding a special meeting without an attorney present, to which the mayor could not cite a specific state statute in response. This led to accusations of illegal actions by the council. Additionally, the debate over hiring a Police director without addressing the need for a clerk in the police department brought to light concerns about employee welfare, particularly in light of the mold issues in the building.
The meeting’s atmosphere deteriorated as it progressed, with multiple people speaking out of turn and personal remarks being made about the mayor’s family, leading to a breakdown in decorum and procedure. The meeting then ended abruptly.