Monday, June 28, 2010

Transparency in Government, Part 1 - Selective Transparency?

Our mayor seems to take nearly every turn trumpeting his accomplishment of bringing transparency to borough hall.

A recent Record article seems to have some Dumont council members supporting bold initiatives concerning public contracting.  The impression to the public is that council members want to go beyond that allowed by law.

How quaint.

What can the M&C show for after spending in excess of $45,000 on website services since 2008 besides posting council meeting agenda and minutes, hosting an events calendar and an emergency alert system that was absent during the March 13 storm when residents needed information most?  While I applaud the posting of ordinances and resolutions since April 2009, why have past ordinances and resolutions before then not appeared?  Why were the posting of commission and committee agenda and minutes intermittent or nonexistent?  Could a flurry of Joint Land Use Board meeting minutes have been motivated by this gentle reminder

Is it just me, or does it seem interesting that well-paid, full-time staff (who, by the way, appears to be receiving a 3.5% salary raise for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 along with all permanent municipal staff) needs to be reminded by a resident to do their job?  What does that say about the teachers and janitorial staff from Dumont Board of Education who were pressured during the May budget talks, would they have agreed to concessions knowing the mayor had just signed some of those same collective bargaining agreements with borough employees around the same time?  I would not be surprised if these folks, many of whom are also Dumont residents, join the residents who voted down the BOE budget back in April to remind the council incumbents in November, justified or otherwise, how they enjoyed playing three card monte?

The contracts are public information.  They should be online for all to see from an official source.  No resident should have to file an OPRA request to access them.  No borough clerk should have to waste their time and taxpayer dollars servicing trivial OPRA requests other than to tell the requestor where on the website they can be found.  Sadly, this happens in Dumont more often than one would like to believe.

Why?  I forgot - the law does not require posting online.  So much for appearing to go beyond the law for the sake of election year politics.

Residents should ask why, a privately operated website having no affiliation to the Borough of Dumont, is hosting public information that should be accessible via the official borough website?  How much public information will the current administration continue to withhold from the official website before residents see the facade for what it is and realizing money spent on this service, regardless of how small, is money wasted?  In other words, if it is not required by law, then why have one at all?

Oh, that's right - Dumont wants to provide more than what is required by law. 

Boy am I confused now.

Where can that transparent government, so often touted by the Mayor, be found again?