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ACLU To Colts Neck: Stop Shutting Down Speaker

Mayor Matt may bemoan the fact that his and the Council’s actions are scrutinized, and many of those actions criticized, by some of his constituents and that these pages memorialize all of that and provides other information that he may not want the public to be aware of.  But he’s not alone.

There’s a fellow in Colts Neck doing a great job of collecting information about the actions of his town’s government, videotaping its meetings and organizing it all on a page called “Colts Neck Royalty”.

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Very well organized!  I especially like how he provides time marks for the meeting highlights.  I’m too lazy to do that, but if someone wants to volunteer to create them, I would be very happy to include them in the posts of the meeting tapes.

The citizen watchdog/webmaster is a fellow named Jeffrey Sauter.  He has attended many of Belmar’s Council meetings and I recall I might have given him some technical advice about loading videos to Youtube when he was planning his own site.  Great job, Jeff!

Apparently Mr. Sauter has really been getting under the Council’s skin and they’ve been interrupting him and shutting him down during the public comments period of their meetings.  The December 17, 2014 meeting is a good example.

(It looks to me like they hold their meetings in someone’s dining room.)

Sauter begins speaking at the 30:20 mark and at about the 37:00 mark the mayor has heard enough and shuts him down.  Definitely worth watching.

This happened several more times in 2015 and finally Sauter complained to the ACLU about the interruptions and about the fact that comments critical of the administration were being left out of the official minutes.  They investigated and issued this letter to the mayor:

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You might have seen the story about it last week in the Asbury Park Press:

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Here in Belmar the mayor has imposed a five minute limit on each speaker’s comments and it is clearly being unevenly enforced.  If you’re supportive of the mayor and his policies you can go on forever.  If the mayor doesn’t like what you’re saying you get five or six or maybe seven minutes.  This is particularly problematic considering that he only allows one trip to the mic.

One other note about public comments:  You recall that I have suggested adding a public comment session near the beginning of the meetings so the folks don’t have to stay for the whole meeting if they don’t want to.  When I was researching the change orders on Lavellette’s new $5 million hurricane-proof, fully furnished and outfitted municipal complex/police station/jail/courthouse/post office I read the minutes of some of their meetings.  I discovered they have two public comments sessions, one at the start of the meeting…Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.27.10 AM and one at the end.Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 10.27.51 AM

See?  I’m not so crazy after all.


  1. Teddy Ehmann wrote:

    Thank You Dave BUT…..
    The guilty parties are all elected Republican officials. The Twp. Attorney John O. Bennett ( NJ Governor for a day and purchased stationery, was involved in scandal) formerly the Monmouth Cty. Republican chair, illustrates that the party affiliation makes no difference.
    Colts Neck 48.5% Independents and 13% Democrats are willing hostages to the 38.4% Republican minority.
    Belmar: the 51.8% Independents and the 20% Republicans are willing hostages to the 28% minority. But I am sure that those characters are “moving Colt’s Neck forward”.

    Friday, August 21, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  2. Tom Burke wrote:

    If you read the entire ACLU letter you will note that it acknowledges that a governing body may limit the time allowed for the exercise of free speech on governmental issues by those attending an open hearing. In Belmar the policy is 5 minutes to say what you want. That 5 minutes seems to have been adjudicated to be an acceptable practice as per the ACLU letter that was posted.

    Friday, August 21, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  3. admin wrote:

    Those supporting the administration can take much longer, no problem. He never shuts you or Mark Fitzgerald down.

    Friday, August 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Mr misconstrued, misinformation, and misinterpreted is not the authority on ways and means, nor the rational of advise and consent. Vote, voters “of Belmar”, just vote. Who knows you might be enjoying the Zombie walk sooner than you thought would ever happen. Asbury decision making should be lauded.
    Enjoy your neighbors, you don’t need a ward healers to tell you which way the winds blow or who will let you down. You’ve seen it with your both eyes and, via Dave’s blog, your very own ears.

    Friday, August 21, 2015 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  5. Tom Dilberger wrote:

    While I think the man does a good public service, I also think his running to a known communist, anti-American group like the ACLU doesn’t help him in my book.

    Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 7:06 am | Permalink
  6. Tom Burke wrote:

    Yet another deceptive statement from the administrator. I seldom speak at council and almost never at the public session which is the one with the 5 minute time limit…..when I do I have never taken over two or three minutes. Check your tapes for that fact and prove me wrong. Those times I have spoken for over 5 minutes have been at workshop sessions. The key to my response is in the first sentence.

    Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 8:02 am | Permalink
  7. admin wrote:

    When was the last time a critic of the mayor spoke at a workshop session?

    Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 8:19 am | Permalink
  8. Tom Burke wrote:

    August 18th 2015. Though not that evening, and not at a workshop session, but there have been more than one occasion when I have spoken in criticism or our Mayor. You know that, and he knows that. However my view is that when an attempt to work together is offered by either party, good things sometimes come. It is not selling out, and it is not being naive, it is being reasonable and practical.

    Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  9. admin wrote:

    Yes, everybody knows what the deal is.

    Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    Indeed they do.

    Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

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