By Mark Rosman
The next time you hear a politician use the word “transparency,” do not believe for a minute that he or she wants to be transparent with you or your fellow residents. It sounds good, but it’s likely not true.
Here’s an example of politicians being non-transparent. The members of the Jackson Township Council recently appointed Samara O’Neill to an open seat on the governing body.
During the Sept. 13 meeting of the mayor and council, O’Neill’s name was placed into nomination and Township Council President Martin Flemming, Vice President Andrew Kern and Councilman Nino Borrelli voted “yes” to appoint her.
Councilman Stephen M. Chisholm Jr. was absent from the meeting.
O’Neill’s appointment will run through Dec. 31. She succeeded former councilman Alex Sauickie III, who resigned from Jackson’s governing body on Aug. 22 as he prepared to take his seat in the state Assembly.
O’Neill will run for a full four-year term on the council in the Nov. 8 election. She is on a ticket with Flemming, who is running for mayor, and Kern, who is seeking re-election to the council.
That worked out well when O’Neill sought the council appointment and her running mates Flemming and Kern got to vote “yes” on her nomination.
A day or two after O’Neill was appointed to the council, I sent an email to Flemming through the municipal website and posed the following questions: “Who are the residents who applied for the council appointment?” and “When and where were interviews with the candidates conducted?”
As of today, Sept. 21, Flemming has not responded to the email.
Notification of the council vacancy was announced by Flemming during the meeting in August at which the governing body accepted Sauickie’s resignation.
Not many people were in attendance at that council meeting and my guess is not too many people watched the live-stream of the meeting or watched it later on video, but, transparency, right?
The municipal clerk has informed the Tri-Town News that Jackson’s township attorney is reviewing the matter and will determine if the names of the residents who applied for the appointment to the vacant council seat can be released to the public.
Officials in other towns who wanted to hide names in a case like this have claimed that residents who applied for an appointment to a governing body were in effect seeking employment because the position has a stipend and therefore their names could not be released.
That position would be an insult to residents.
People who apply to serve on a governing body know they are entering the public arena. It is not like seeking a new job when an individual does not want his current employer to know he is looking for another position.
So I pose these questions again to the people in charge in Jackson – in front of and behind the scenes – and would have their fellow residents believe they are transparent:
• Who, in addition to O’Neill, applied for the council vacancy?
• When, where and how were the candidates interviewed?
• Who conducted the interviews?
• Was the council vacancy only announced at a council meeting? If so, why wasn’t more of an effort made to get the word out and solicit interested residents?
With an election coming up on Nov. 8 and Flemming, Kern and O’Neill seeking votes, transparency would seem to be the correct side of the ledger to be on these days.
We await their transparency.
Mark Rosman is the managing editor of the Tri-Town News.