Better Accountability in Government

★★★★★★★

*Our 2017 platform page is in italics, and our 2018-2020 record is in bold.*

The Caldwell Borough Council has made decisions recently that do not reflect our values and expectations. We will advocate for ideas that promote public trust and more accountability in local government.

  • In 2015, the Caldwell Borough Council voted to increase the “Sewer Commissioners” budget line item from 4,217 to 7,217, a 71% increase of $3,000 (1). The Council neglected to disclose to the public during that and subsequent budget votes that they themselves are the Sewer Commissioners. This vote for a Sewer Commissioner pay increase effectively raised the Borough Council members’ overall salaries by 52% to $8,717.

THE RECORD: On August 21, 2018, we voted “NO” to Resolution 8-156, which would have continued the 52% pay increase first adopted in 2015. Since then, Henderson has donated his sewer commissioner stipend and Jonathan has declined it altogether. We will vote to ensure the 2020 budget removes Council salaries from the sewer budget and reduces overall compensation.

  • Only two of the Borough Council members, Frank Rodgers and Richard Hauser, disclosed the fact that their total income from the Borough of Caldwell exceeded $2,000. You can examine their financial disclosure reports here.

THE RECORD: We were happy to fully disclose our salaries on the state-mandated financial disclosure forms for the past 3 years. Those forms are searchable at this link.

  • The last time the Sewer Commissioners were publicly appointed at the reorganization meeting was 2008. As a result, the public is generally unaware of both the existence and membership of the commission. The Sewer Commission’s schedule and meeting minutes are not listed on the Borough’s website alongside its other boards and commissions and their respective schedules and minutes. According to one Borough employee, speaking of the Sewer Commission: “We have meetings that are recorded but there are no minutes. In 3 years there may be only 2 or 3 meetings.” (2). The Open Public Meetings Act (a.k.a. “Sunshine Law”) states
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THE RECORD: When asked by then-Mayor Ann Dassing, what request we had for the reorganization meeting, we requested the sewer commissioners be publicly appointed. The January 7, 2018, Council meeting was the first time the sewer commissioners had been publicly appointed in Caldwell since 2008.

  • Public funds should not benefit the family members of public officials. Any municipal contract that does so is unethical and borders on illegal. The Borough has come dangerously close to violating its own Ordinance (20-3.d):

We will oppose any contracts that have the appearance of a conflict of interest (3).

THE RECORD: We have never voted to award a contract that presents a conflict of interest with a member of the Governing Body.

  • In 2015, Caldwell asked the Essex County Board of Elections to move the polls for voters in districts 4, 5, & 6 from Grover Cleveland Middle School and to the Community Center. In September 2017, two members of the governing body publicly argued against moving the polls back to the GCMS from the Community Center at a time when large portions of its parking deck have been closed.
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We will advocate for more convenient voting for elderly residents in those districts by working to move the polls for districts 4, 5, & 6 back to GCMS.

THE RECORD: We proposed and voted to adopt Ordinance 1361-18 which requires the Borough Clerk to notify the Council members in writing regarding any proposed polling location by March 15th, and we supported the return of polls for districts 4, 5, & 6 to the Grover Cleveland Middle School.

  • Whenever Caldwell settles lawsuits involving public officials, the public is really the ultimate loser, both financially and in terms of accountability. We will work to make relevant information in the public domain readily accessible (4).

THE RECORD: We have supported a new Borough policy of posting litigation documents on the Borough’s website that do not violate restrictions against disclosing sensitive, personal information.

  • Caldwell lacks a comprehensive plan for the use of technology in local government. We have a vision for optimizing the Borough’s website, utilizing online surveys, social media outreach, and improving channel 35 in order to better serve residents.​

THE RECORD: On, September 18th, 2018, we voted to pass Resolution 9-172, which created a uniform policy for the Borough’s social media platforms. We also spear-headed the effort to revamp the Borough’s 20-year old website, which resulted in a modern, device-adaptable, ADA-compliant website that provides regular updates to residents for less money than the previous website’s annual budget of $15,000. On July 16, 2019, we voted to adopt Resolution 7-182 in order to enter a contract to build the new website.

1. In 2014, Caldwell Borough Council Resolution 8-179 established the Sewer Commissioners salary at $4,217. In 2105, Caldwell Borough Council Resolution 10-184 established the Sewer Commissioners salary at $7,217. The minutes from these meetings lack any disclosure of the personal benefit to the Borough Council members of these votes. Ordinance 190-44 reads: “The Caldwell Sewerage Utility shall be managed and administered by the Borough of Caldwell through persons designated by the Mayor, with the advice and consent of the Borough Council, and a reasonable administration charge (to be annually fixed by the Borough Council) shall be paid by the Caldwell Sewerage Utility to the Borough of Caldwell for said service.”
2. Citation from an email sent from a Borough employee on 10/30/2017.
3. The Progress, “Snow Job in Caldwell“, 6/3/2011, Caldwell Borough Council Resolution 9-173, 9/20/2016, Caldwell Borough Council Resolution 8-186, 8/7/2012
4. New Jersey Herald  “Towns/School Boards Should Disclose Lawsuit Settlements”