What if the Hunterdon County Commissioners scheduled a public hearing but didn’t show up? What if Susan Soloway, Zach Rich, Shaun Van Doren and John Lanza were all M.I.A.? What if they sent just one commissioner and four stooges?
There’s a term for that kind of disrespect of government for constituents and we’ll share it later.
It was supposed to be the second of two legally required public hearings about the Hunterdon County Commissioners’ plans to sell the $5 million Solid Waste Transfer Station located in Clinton Township, a.k.a. the county dump. (Meeting calendar is here.)
A scam meeting notice
But the commissioners couldn’t be bothered to show up.
The first public hearing on the matter was held at the June 6, 2023 commissioner’s meeting. The commissioners were present to hear the public’s comments at that meeting.
The commissioners placed their routine legal public notice for the 5:30pm June 27 meeting in the same place on their website where they post all commissioner meetings. Around 40 citizens showed up, only to find a group of people sitting at the dais without the normal name plates. Only one was a commissioner, Jeff Kuhl. He sat at the center seat where the chair of the meeting sits — only he didn’t run the meeting.
In fact, Kuhl never said a word.
They’ll put it on their playlist
After a quick introduction of those on the dais (too quick to jot down), a woman to Kuhl’s left conducted the meeting. An audience member asked where the commissioners were. How would they participate in the discussion with the public about the disposition of a $5 million public asset?
How could they hear the public?
“They are not here. They will listen to the recording later to hear your public comments.”
We don’t do questions
She warned that those on the dais would not answer any questions. Pressed about this from an audience member, she repeated, “We will not answer any questions.”
The first speaker, long-time county resident and retired Editor-in-Chief of the Hunterdon Democrat, Curtis Leeds held up a report about the dump sale obtained from the county under the Sunshine Law. He asked who the author was because none was listed.
We don’t identify authors of reports
The leader of the meeting moved her chair back to confer privately with another person on the dais. Then she said they would not identify the author.
It was advertised as a public meeting of the commissioners to hear public comments — but who was doing the hearing (or listening)? One commissioner and four stooges.
A sneaky trick of politicians
Why should you care about any of this? The commissioners know your “public comments” at two legally mandated public hearings don’t really matter.
The commissioners know they don’t have to listen to a word you say.
All they have to do is hold two sham “hearings” where they hear nothing. 90 days after that second hearing they can do anything they want with that $5 million county dump and taxpayers will know nothing until the deal is done.
Oops! It’s a sham!
Dear reader, if you find the word “stooges” rude and inappropriate, bear in mind that 40 busy taxpayers showed up before the end of their workday to be heard by their elected commissioners — after a scam announcement of a meeting of the commissioners was advertised on the county website.
But the commissioners’ meeting was a sham. There was not a legal quorum of commissioners present.
Rude and inappropriate doesn’t begin to describe the behavior of the commissioners who who were absent — and the one present who didn’t participate.
“Circle jerk” best describes what those on the dais did late yesterday afternoon. But no harm done by this characterization — because their places on a dais had no nameplates to identify them. So who’s to be offended except citizens who were required to identify themselves before they spoke?
News Flash: Commissioners don’t need constituents
Speaker after speaker expressed irritation that the elected officials who scheduled the public hearing were not present to hear the public’s comments about the sale of a $5 million public asset.
The woman on the dais invited people to submit questions to the clerk of the commissioner board. However, she said such questions might not be answered.
It must be noted that at least two facts were raised by the public that strongly suggest:
A sale of the dump would violate New Jersey statutes, and
The “valuation” of the dump was made without “any financial or operating information or expense data from the current contract operators.” This despite a contractual obligation that the operator “will provide to the County each year an independent certified audit of its operations.”
So, on what are the commissioners basing their decision?
How county government works
What happens when elected officials scam their constituents into attending a public hearing without elected officials?
What happens when elected officials hang government employees out to dry all by themselves in front of constituents?
This “government in action” is known by an affectionate term here in New Jersey.
What happens when the commissioners deliver to constituents:
- A scam “public notice” of a commissioner meeting.
- A sham of a public hearing: The commissioners were MIA at their own public hearing.
- Government employees doing the work of elected officials.
- “We don’t answer questions.”
- An unattributed report that was written by requirement of New Jersey law: “But we won’t tell you who wrote the advisory report recommending sale of the dump.”
- No clear explanation about when the commissioners might take action to sell a $5 million public asset. The best “the woman” offered was that “You should look for a bid — you’ll know they’ve taken action when they issue a bid.” [Paraphrased, but we don’t know who said it, so what’s the harm?]
An audience member noted after the meeting that the only way to have good government is to “Vote the bums out!” Another replied that the only commissioner running for re-election this year, Shaun Van Doren, was a no-show. “Van Doren didn’t show up, but he’ll ask me to show up on election day to vote for him, do ya think?”
Van Doren’s only opponent in November is Dan Connor. Connor showed up and took notes on the public’s comments.
We cannot print the words of some attendees after the “event.” Our sensibilities would be compromised.
We’ll be obtaining the county’s official recording shortly. Stay tuned.