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Executive Session? What’s That?

My Libertarian Party colleague John Paff, chairman of the party’s Open Government Advocacy Project, emailed me this story from the Wildwood Leader yesterday:

Crest’s closed-door minutes questioned


WILDWOOD CREST— A Somerset man who leads a government transparency project has taken issue with the borough’s meeting minutes, questioning if the information provided to the public is sufficient.

John Paff, who is chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project, sent the Wildwood Crest Board of Commissioners a letter this week stating that minutes regarding a closed-door executive session Nov. 18 are too terse, and do not provide enough information regarding the hiring of a special investigator to oversee an internal investigation.

Commissioner Don Cabrera, who was not present at the meeting Nov. 18, said Tuesday that the board would consider Paff’s concern.

“We’ve always done it this way,” he said Tuesday. “And if we did something wrong it certainly wasn’t intentional.”

Paff also sent a copy of the letter to the Wildwood Leader. (See Page 8 for the letter).

“Just because you are talking about something sensitive doesn’t mean you sanitize the minutes,” Paff told the Leader on Tuesday.

The minutes in question, which Paff provided with his letter, state that the Crest was holding interviews for the open position of the borough’s administrator. In addition to the interviews, the minutes state that a discussion “regarding the hiring of a special investigator” was also held.

But the minutes do not detail the discussion itself, which is why Paff took issue……………….


Belmar needn’t worry about getting a similar letter from Mr. Paff because we don’t even have executive sessions in Belmar.  The last time the council here went into executive session, Ken Pringle was mayor.  Paff is concerned that important information is being withheld from the public in Wildwood Crest, but here in Belmar its even being withheld from the council.  And with the exception of Jim Bean, none of the council members seem to even care.

I used to complain to Ken Pringle when he was mayor that the minutes of the executive session were never released to the public, even after the subject matter could no longer be considered sensitive.  But at least the council members were kept apprised of what was going on and would presumably not keep quiet about any malfeasance that might be occurring.   Presently we have no such protection.

I’ve protested on more than one occasion the total absence of executive sessions under this administration.  I was told that nothing sensitive enough to warrant an executive session has arisen in the three years Doherty has been mayor.  This is, of course, ridiculous.  With all the dancing and pivoting we’ve seen with respect to Belmar’s numerous controversies and legal entanglements, I’m certain that more time is spent discussing that stuff than is spent discussing the normal business we see at the council meetings.  Its just discussed in the smoke filled free back rooms.  Or maybe at the breakfast table.  Who knows?

And that’s just the stuff we know about.  For example, I was able to learn about this little matter thanks to the Open Government Advocacy Project’s website:

Belmar pays $7,500 to settle police excessive force suit


On October 10, 2012, the Borough of Belmar (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $7,500 to a Bradley Beach man who sued members of the Belmar Police Department for allegedly beating and choking him. In his suit, Jason Bernardinello said that on July 25, 2009, when he was 19 years old, he and some friends were riding their bicycles on Ocean Avenue at about 10 p.m. He said that Special Officer whose name was stated in the lawsuit as \”Sean Bowers\” (but who is presumably Shawn Bowens or perhaps Sean Bowens) grabbed one of his friends\’ bicycles, tackled the friend from behind, \”slammed [him] violently\” and handcuffed him. Thereafter, while Bernardinello was allegedly having a \”civil discussion\” with another office, Bowens reportedly screamed \”Get the f**k out of here\” to him. Bernardinello claimed that when he tried to \”respectfully and calmly respond,\” Bowens grabbed his throat and started choking him and shoved his head into a light pole. He claims that four other officers jumped on him and \”pummeled him while he lay, defenseless on the ground, punching him in the face and the groin while bystanders pleaded with the special cops to stop the beating.\” Bernardinello further claims that he was detained at police headquarters for two hours and the officer on desk duty, who \”was highly intoxicated,\” refused to let his parents see him. The case is captioned Bernardinello v. Belmar, Federal Case No. 3:11-cv-0413 and Bernardinello\’s attorney was Dan A. Druz of Belmar. Case documents are on-line here. The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms. Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public\’s right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant. None of Bernardinello\’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $7,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Belmar or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Belmar or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bernardinello $7,500 than take the matter to trial……………..

The complaint and settlement agreement can be viewed here.

I should tell you that Belmar Councilman Jim Bean does know about this.  He found out about it from me.  Does that seem right to you?


  1. guest wrote:

    Is Bowens still on the payroll?

    Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    No. He wasn’t hired for the 2013 season.

    Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  3. belmar biker wrote:

    an FYI –

    This Bernardinello family of Bradley doesn’t seem all that squeaky clean.

    Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  4. admin wrote:

    I’m certainly not surprised. I’m just saying that as a councilman, Jim Bean should have been apprised of what was going on. Maybe he would have opposed paying the guy.

    Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

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