Palisades Park Council Faces Questions of Accountability and Transparency

In a recent meeting fraught with debate and community input, the Palisades Park Borough Council approved a motion for a Chamber of Commerce Street Fair, elicited public scrutiny over their decision to hire law firm Cocker and Cocker, and grappled with internal issues concerning website updates and job postings.

A discussion about the absence of online job postings for a police clerk position escalated into a broader critique of the website’s management. “It’s a very simple procedure… we just got to provide the content,” said council member Suk “John” Min, expressing his exasperation that no one had taken the initiative to keep the website updated.

This spiraled into an even more nuanced debate on whether each department, like the police, should manage its own website. Council member Jason Kim suggested that the police should find and pay for their own webmaster, emphasizing that the council shouldn’t shoulder the burden of the police department’s issues.

Moreover, the topic of who should handle website updates became a hot point of contention. While some members proposed that the borough clerk could be offered a stipend for this task, others felt it was a matter that didn’t merit a $60,000 job. “Somebody needs to be dedicated to do that; we’ll do that, but I don’t think it deserves a $60,000 job,” argued Michael Vietri.

The council’s decision to hire the law firm Cocker and Cocker via resolution 190.196 sparked further debate. While the firm was ultimately hired through a roll call vote, one council member dissented, opining that another firm would be better equipped at this point in time. When the floor was opened for public participation, citizens questioned the council’s choice. The council clarified that Cocker and Cocker were hired for multiple purposes, including ongoing litigation and other legal matters.

Questions on accountability extended beyond hiring decisions. The council faced public inquiry on why they had not declared compliance with New Jersey’s affordable housing laws back in 2015. A council member acknowledged that the oversight had led to current complications: “We failed to take an opportunity in 2015 and are now dealing with the consequences,” they said.

In other matters, the council authorized a Chamber of Commerce Street Fair. Council member Cynthia Pirrera recommended approval of the fair, contingent upon the provision of event insurance for specific days. The motion passed despite reservations from another council member who pointed out that the Chamber had a history of failing to secure insurance in advance. “We have seen this every year,” said the skeptical council member, emphasizing the need for the Chamber to be more responsible.

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