Summer hours for Borough Hall were verbally approved by council at the April 2nd Mayor & Council meeting. In addition to the issue that the temporary schedule lessens the number of hours and days that Borough Hall is open to the public from June through August, the other significant problem is that the hours were never memorialized with a formal resolution, either that night or any meeting since then, which is a term in the agreement between the municipality and the Roselle Park Clerical Group. According to Roselle Park Borough Clerk Doreen Cali, the matter was memorialized and there is no violation of the Agreement.
The Agreement between the Borough of Roselle Park and the Roselle Park Clerical Group for the years 2015-2019 has a section (Section D) on page #32 that reads:
Summer hours shall be in effect for Borough Hall employees only (excluding Police and DPW), and subject to annual agreement by the Borough Council (memorialized in a resolution) and annual majority consent of the union and non-union employees assigned to Borough Hall who would be eligible for summer hours. Weekly schedule and duration of the summer hours period is subject to annual negotiations and approval as described above.
An OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request was submitted to ask the municipality for a copy of the resolution that memorialized the summer hours for Borough Hall employees. In its response, the Borough Clerk’s office returned a copy of the minutes for the April 2nd meeting and circled the section of the meeting labeled “Matters For Referral To Committee Or Council” that stated:
Mayor Hokanson said Council needs to make a decision on Summer Hours. Councilwoman Storey made a motion to approve Summer Hours; seconded by Councilman Elmarassy and adopted.
It is this section that the Borough Clerk claimed was the formal resolution. When reached for comment that the municipality’s OPRA response did not comply with the Borough Code Book which reads that a “Resolution shall mean and include any act or regulation of the Borough Council required to be reduced to writing, but which may be finally passed at the meeting at which it is introduced.”, Ms. Cali responded that the words ‘any act’ satisfy the resolution requirement of the Agreement.
In pointing out that the definition – seven words later – stated that any act was ‘required to be reduced to writing’, and that it was that part that was not yet done, the Borough Clerk responded, “Yes it has, the motion is reduced to writing in the minutes.”
The problem with position this is that on that very night, right before the matters referred to council that approved the summer hours, a resolution to approve the sponsoring of RP Loves Arts was verbally added to the agenda, voted on, and approved that evening. Subsequently, it was memorialized in writing as Resolution #126-15. No such resolution still exists for the approval of summer hours even though it was listed in the section in the minutes right after the vote on resolutions.
Additionally, using the protocol of the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB), anytime that an application is approved or denied by the MLUB, it is always memorialized in a following meeting formally as a resolution that is published with all the conditions and specifics included. Such a resolution stating the specifics of the summer schedule with dates and times has yet to be written.
The Borough Clerk continued by citing the definition of a ‘motion’ from a Wikipedia page which stated “In parliamentary procedure, a motion is a formal proposal by a member of a deliberative assembly that the assembly take certain action. In a parliament, this is also called a parliamentary motion and includes legislative motions, budgetary motions, supplementary budgetary motions, and petitionary motions. These can bring new business before the assembly or consist of numerous other proposals to take procedural steps or carry out other actions relating either to a pending motion or the body itself.”
The motion was never in question, since it was clearly voted on, simply the resolution which was to accompany the motion. Instead of citing Wikipedia, the clerk needed to refer to Robert’s Rules of Order Revised (RROR) – the rules used by the municipality’s governing body. In RROR there is a distinction between a motion and a resolution. A motion is defined as ‘a proposal that the assembly take certain action, or that it express itself as holding certain views’. Making the distinction, Robert’s Rules states that ‘when a main motion is of such importance or length as to be in writing it is usually written in the form of a resolution’ and even emphasizes that ‘Every resolution should be in writing’.
The most recently noticeable example of memorializing a motion through a resolution is Resolution 221-14, which came almost six months after the formal act of accepting the resignation of Ralph Ortiz from the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB). Even though the resignation was accepted by the mayor’s office in May of 2014, a resolution was needed to be presented and voted on in order to formally memorialize it. The resignation was accepted in the very same section, Matters For Referral, as the Summer Hours vote – but still had to be memorialized as a written resolution.
The absence of such a resolution not only removes the act from the official record, but, more importantly, it actually violates a term of a mutually agreed upon contract. That could lead to future issues with negotiations or precedent for enforceability of other aspects of the agreement.
In the end, the purpose of a resolution is to spell out the specifics of any legal act or decision taken by a governing body. In this case, a resolution would provide – in writing – the duration, dates, and time of the 2015 summer schedule. As it stands, no such official information is currently on the record. According to the Borough Clerk, the two sentences that summarize the vote and adoption are enough to satisfy both the definition of a resolution and the terms of a legal agreement.
Summer hours begin today for Borough Hall and the next scheduled Mayor & Council meeting is Thursday, June 4th at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall.