Resolution #20-45: Resolution Adopting Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority Policy for Public Questions or Comments During Virtual Meetings of the Vernon Township MUA Board of Commissioners in Accordance with the Regulations of the Division of Local Government Services

Date of Adoption: October 22, 2020

WHEREAS, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy declared a Public Health Emergency and a State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic pursuant to Executive Order 103. Governor Murphy subsequently issued Executive Orders 119, 138, 151, 162, 171, 181 and 186 extending the Public Health Emergency; and

WHEREAS, the Governor’s Executive Orders allowed municipalities and authorities to conduct public meetings electronically with the proviso that such meetings must comply with the public notice and public requirements of the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”); and

WHEREAS, on or about September 24, 2020, the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs promulgated emergency regulations (N.J.A.C. 5:39-1.1. et seq.) concerning the conduct of remote public meetings during a Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency; and

WHEREAS, the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority seeks to establish a policy under which it will conduct public comment sessions during public meetings in compliance with the OPMA and the regulations for remote public meetings during the existing Public Health Emergency.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority hereby adopts the following policy to conduct remote public meetings:

  1. It shall be the policy of the Board of Commissioners of the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority that citizens shall be allowed to participate in meetings via audio call in number and video conferencing platform by stating their name and address when directed to do so during the Public Comment portions of the meeting or the Public Hearing segment of the Budget and Rate meetings. Citizens shall be allotted up to three (3) minutes to participate during the Public Comment portions or Public Hearings. Additionally, the public may comment at meetings by emailing their statements or questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this e-mail address) or in written letter form directed to the Administrator no later than 6:45 p.m. on the scheduled meeting date. The email or letter shall consist of the name and complete address of the individual wishing to speak; the portion of the meeting the individual wishing to comment would like to participate in (Public Comment or Public Hearing budget or rate topics ) and the comment or statement. All public comments submitted through electronic mail or written letter before the remote public meeting shall be read aloud and addressed during the remote public meeting in a manner audible to all meeting participants and the public listening. The Board of Commissioners shall adhere to the limit noted above in reading comments. Each comment shall be read from the beginning until the time limit is reached. The Board of Commissioners may pass over duplicative written comments; however, each duplicative comment shall be noted for the record with the content summarized. If the Board of Commissioners elects to summarize duplicative comments, it must not summarize certain duplicative comments while reading other duplicative comments individually. The Board of Commissioners reserves the right to respond or not to respond during the meeting to any citizen’s questions or comments.
  2. Participants that wish to speak should remain on mute until acknowledged by the Chairman of the Board to speak. If a member of the public becomes disruptive during a remote public meeting, including during any period for public comment, the member of the local public body charged with running the remote public meeting shall mute or keep on mute, or direct appropriate staff to mute or keep on mute, the disruptive member of the public and warn that continued disruption may result in their being prevented from speaking or removed from the remote public meeting. Disruptive conduct includes sustained inappropriate behaviors such as, but not necessarily limited to, shouting, interruption, and use of profanity. A member of the public continuing to act in a disruptive manner after receiving an initial warning may be muted or kept on mute, with other members of the public allowed to proceed with their questions or comments. If time permits, the disruptive individual shall be allowed to speak after all other members of the public have been given the opportunity to make comment. In the event the individual remains disruptive, the individual may be muted or kept on mute for the remainder of the remote public meeting, or removed altogether from the remote public meeting.
  3. The agenda, agenda items and documents in relation to the scheduled meeting shall be available to members of the public at http://www.vernonmua.com/meetings . Presentations that require materials not on the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority’s website prior to the meeting shall be visibly shared by broadcasting during the meeting.
  4. When entering an executive or closed session, the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority shall ensure that audio or video of the session cannot be accessed except by those individual that are participating in the session. The Administrator should take roll call with each individual affirmatively identifying themselves prior to commencing the executive session. If a closed session is held through a telephonic conference call, a separate call-in line should be made available to ensure confidentiality. For closed sessions during remote public meetings held through video conferencing, audio recording should be muted and video recording blocked by a graphic labeled “Executive Session.” As with in-person meetings, the Administrator or Board Legal Counsel shall read into the record the reason(s) for entering into executive session.
  5. It shall be the policy of the Board of Commissioners of the Vernon Township Municipal Utilities Authority that notice of the meeting must include the time, date, location and, to the extent know, the agenda of the meeting, whether formal action may or may not be taken; how the public can access the meeting via audio call in number or video conferencing platform; how to make public comment and where relevant documents relating to the meeting can be accessed. Notice of a meeting shall be posted on the front entrance of Township Hall and on http://www.vernonmua.com.