November 13, 2009
Re: New Law Affecting Members of Local Authorities, Boards, and Commissions
The recent enactment of the “Citizen Service Act” (A2784) on October 19, 2009 has four important provisions that affect municipal clerks and citizens on local boards.
First, Section 1 of the new law specifically requires anyone newly appointed to a municipal entity to take an oath of office for that specific position. Under previous law, individuals were only required to take the general oath of office. These oaths should be filed with the municipal clerk.
Section 2 of the law requires the municipal clerk to compile and maintain a directory of all local authorities, boards and commissions. The law requires the directory to include, but not be limited to, the following information for each entity: the name of the authority, board or commission; the number of members or positions; a list of currently appointed members, along with their terms of office; vacancies; general frequency of meetings; and the appointing authority, and enabling statute, ordinance or resolution that describes the entity and responsibilities of the members.
Section 3 of the law also requires any persons interested in serving on a municipal authority, board or commission to file a one-page ‘Citizen Leadership Form’ with the municipal clerk. The Division of Community Affairs has prepared a model version of the form (WORD or PDF) that the user can fill out by computer or hand. Additional information may be added if deemed necessary by the municipal clerk. The law also deems several items as restricted from public disclosure under the Open Public Records Act, including home address, phone number, and e-mail address.
Finally, the new law amends N.J.S.A. 40A:9-12.1, which determines when a position becomes vacant due to unexcused absences. The new law allows a position to be declared vacant when a member is absent from meeting for 8 consecutive weeks, or 4 consecutive regular meetings, whichever is longer. A town may adopt an ordinance that sets a stricter policy, with the caveat that such an attendance policy may not go below 6 consecutive weeks, or 3 consecutive meetings, whichever is longer.
Local officials should consult legal counsel whenever considering applying this law.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.