James Kinloch, a former Teaneck Planning Board alternate who was passed over for a voting position last year, questioned the decision during a Township Council meeting last week, raising concerns about racial diversity on the board, according to a report on NorthJersey.com.
The council appointed Keith Kaplan to an unexpired seat held by Mark Schwartz. Kinloch, who is black, resigned as first alternate in December, upset over not being selected, according to the report. Council members said race was not a factor when they made the decision.
"I lay claim to what is merely a right to become a regular member of the Planning Board and, given my professional experience, believe that if I were again to be denied that membership, it would be for reasons both inconsistent with the values of this town and, in my judgment, inconsistent with the vows taken by members of this council," Kinloch told council members.
Councilman Henry Pruitt said other alternates have been passed over for voting spots on the board in the past.
"It's not a race issue, it's a process issue," Pruitt said in the report. "The question is whether this council is willing to take a look and make sure that we treat these volunteers as fairly as possible."
Several local groups, including representatives from the Northeast Teaneck Block President’s Association and the Teaneck Community Relations Advisory Board, attended the council meeting to show support for Kinloch.
"We ask that your appointment of full [planning board] members reflect our community in terms of ethnicity, race and culture," Community Relations Advisory Board Chair Patricia White said.
Officials said they look for a member who will work well with other members and meet the needs of residents, but said they would reconsider how appointments are made, according to the report.
Editor's Note: Video from the Feb. 5 council meeting is attached with this report, as recorded by the township. Discussion of the planning board selection begins at the 21:10 mark.