(2/2016) Accusations were flying at the latest Carroll Valley borough council meeting when newly-elected borough councilman Bruce Carr introduced a motion to create another three-person committee to review decisions being made by the council on the proposed building project.
Carr suggested that his intention was to bring the discussions "out of the shade" so all council members would have knowledge of any decisions being made or brought before them.
"It needs to have the council take responsibility for these things," Carr said, noting that he'd been to one recent meeting of the "working group" appointed to discuss building issues and was surprised that not more council members were in attendance. "I feel like there is just not enough being seen. We're going to end up owning the project one way or the other. The
council's going to be called on to justify it."
On the other hand, council member Ken Lundberg was having none of it, noting that because three members were appointed to serve on the working group and represent the council, there would be no need to form a separate committee. He further said that even if other council members attended, under the Sunshine Act, they would not be permitted to have a vote or take part in
the discussion or else it would have to be held as a council meeting.
"It would totally be redundant," Borough Manager Dave Hazlett concurred. "There would be no purpose to have two groups doing the same thing."
Councilman Dave Patton suggested advertising the working groups so that the public could attend the meetings if they wanted to have any information, and further offered to relinquish his place in the group so that Carr could attend in his place. Council president Janis Ashman interjected at that point saying she would prefer to take the spot as she had more of a
responsibility to know what was being discussed.
The outcome of the 5-2 vote against the committee did not sit well with resident Richard Mathews, when during the public comments section of the meeting stood up and accused the board of violating the Sunshine Act.
"What you have is a group that gets together and makes decisions and then at the last minute gives it to the board, which makes fairly uniformed decisions that are going to affect all of the citizens of Carroll Valley," Mathews said, suggesting decisions were also being made without details being made available to the public.
Patton patiently explained to Mathews that "There are no major decisions made at the working group meetings, nobody is hiding anything. There are no shadows, and quite frankly, I take offense to that. I'm a representative of the citizens, and that's all. We bring everything back to the council, we give the public updates. There's nothing underhanded going on whatsoever."
Borough solicitor Steve Coccorese agreed with Patton, reminding the public that regardless of any discussions held during the working group meetings, "no decisions are made on any items until it actually gets to the council for a vote. There are no additional powers that a committee would have over a working group," he said.
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