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Town May Add Staff for Records Requests

Teaneck has received an "inordinate" amount of public records requests, town manager says.

Teaneck may be forced to add staff to deal with what officials said is a flood of public records requests that must be processed by the town clerk's office.

Township Clerk Jaime Evelina said her office alone receives 10 to 20 requests a day under the state's Open Public Records Act. That number, she said, does not include requests made to other departments. 

"Every department is impacted," said Evelina. 

One request took eight hours for a staffer to process, according to Township Manager William Broughton, who said the town has faced an "inordinate" amount of records requests. 

New Jersey law gives the public the right to request a range of government information and requires officials to respond within seven business days. 

Broughton said he wasn't yet asking to increase the clerk's staffing, but it might be necessary to comply with the state's seven-day deadline. The township clerk now works with two assistants. 

The cost of the potential new staff member was not yet known. 

Some residents, however, countered that they wouldn't have to file public requests if the information was posted on the town website. 

"If the documents were on the website, nobody would be OPRA-ing them," resident Thomas Abbott said in a report on northjersey.com. 

Frequent council critic Charles Powers, the husband of former Councilwoman Barbara Toffler who has filed several requests, agreed the clerk needed more staff and said he only made the requests out of an interest in government transparency, according to the report. 

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Art Vatsky January 25, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Thank you, James TS. First, about whining and complaining, please see the Declaration of Independence. When that was settled they created the Articles of Confederation. When they found that didn't work, they created the Constitution. Second, the Township has brought the OPRA problem down upon itself. Every NJ citizen has the right to file OPRAs and every township has the legal responsibility to comply. Our township administration seems by nature secretive. Some call it arrogant. I think an OPRA response is due within 10 business days (it could be less). Because of our 4 and 3 day work weeks at town hall, that could be four weeks elapsed time and still the deadline has been unmet. Teaneck has taken complying to state law as optional. It isn't. One thing we lack in Teaneck is an Municipal Investigation department. When Teaneck government screws-up costing us thousands to millions, there is silence. Frankly, I have had it. I can't afford any more municipal screw-ups: no wrongly identified deeds; no lost videos; hidden Emergency Response Plans; improper traffic stops or substandard concrete poured on our dime. All without investigation on the public record. What's the motto we tell our kids? "Learn from Your MIstakes"
Art Vatsky January 25, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Isn't there a restaurant named TGIF? IF one comes to Teaneck (please), they'll have to rename it TGITh. Seriously, I was in the Council meeting when the "extended hours" plan was presented by the Manager. First the new hour schedule followed by ". . . and we will close the building on Fridays". (That was about 170 Fridays ago.) Close the Town Hall the day before a weekend and reduce the days it is open by 20%? Why that should be no problem. I don't recall anyone objecting. I checked the web and the ONLY town that TRADED daytime service hours for extended hours was Teaneck. That is why they are not extended hours at all. They are just shifted hours forcing the majority of the public to adjust to the Town Hall's schedule instead of the other way around.
Who Is John Galt January 26, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Why is it that this Manager is the first Teaneck Manager to need an Assistant Manager, an Assistant to the Manager and a Dir. Of Human Resources to do the same work that previous town manager used to be able handle all on their own? Now he says we need even more employees on top of those three? How about competent management instead and workers that work a full time (5 day) schedule instead of a part time (4 day) schedule?
John Santaella January 26, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Those are very good questions. Is it possible to get answers to them?
jackie miller January 26, 2013 at 02:21 AM
How about one of our residents becomes the manager. Someone who lives here full time and understands the ins and outs of this town. This guy feels like a stranger to me. He can drive off into the sun set to" his " home town.
zizi January 26, 2013 at 03:36 AM
The town manager is human after all. He gets tired after driving to work 4 days a week... common guys... why can't he have a driver to drive his town provided car so when he is in the office 4 days a week.. he is a little fresh...... and perhaps can think straight... council where are you... grant him some much needed service......
Art Vatsky January 26, 2013 at 03:42 AM
I think we did have an assistant manager at one time, maybe 10 years or more ago but we'd probably have to file another OPRA to find out. There might be an old Township managers report laying around that would list it. I don't object to adding staff where needed, for instance, at our busy but under garaged DPW. About Town Hall, I have asked the Council to conduct a workflow/productivity study to see what files can be computerized so that efficiency and output can be improved whether or not additional space is needed. This is not a sure thing but it sure beats moving tons of files and obsolescent equipment only to have to throw it out. Actually, our "new" police station - the one we don't know how much it actually cost - is approaching 20 years of age. I hope the Council isn't considering replacing that too.
JamesTS January 26, 2013 at 04:41 AM
Ok honest question: why is where a public employee lives at all anyones concern? I know tht many of our Police and Firefighters do not live in Teaneck and some live a far distance. They still perform their jobs with high levels of professionalism. I dont care where they live as long as they are going jobs well. Giving cars is a common practice and guess what our town manager isnt the only one who gets a car.
Art Vatsky January 26, 2013 at 06:53 AM
Here are a few reasons why where a public employee lives does matter: 1. Only in town about 40 of 168 hours per week. Doesn't walk or talk to any resident when not on the job, hence out of touch. 2. Long time and distance to travel to get to work in good/bad weather. A higher chance of delay, missed events. Less energy for the job. 3. Lives in a different news and weather zone hence harder to judge actual conditions in town. 4. Doesn't use the commercial businesses in town to hear how they feel about taxes and policies and general goings on. Teaneck dollars are spent elsewhere. 5. Distance is an issue because we pay the cost of the vehicle, maintenance, fuel and insurance. (Note: Use of town owned cars has been much restricted in the past several years all over the country.) When near 40,000 people are depending on you to make rapid, clear and intelligent decisions regarding where they live and work, it would seem close proximity is an asset. That is why members of Congress must live in their districts. Of course, they are elected whereas a municipal employee is appointed by our Council.
JeffO January 26, 2013 at 06:53 PM
If memory serves, Teaneck had an assistant manager in the late 80s and very early 90s, serving under Jack Hadge, who I believe was hired after Werner Schmid retired. For a variety of reasons, many but not all of his own making, Hadge didn't work out and was let go, and the assistant manger (whom Hadge had brought in) was not chosen to succeed him. Instead the council hired Gary Saage, who previously headed up Teaneck's Finance Department. Shortly thereafter, the assistant manager (whose name I can't remember) resigned to take a job in another part of the country and was never replaced. Regarding the police station, which perhaps was rushed as part of the overall imperative at that time to heal the town's many wounds in the wake of the Pannell tragedy: my recollection is that it had broad support from all across Teaneck's political spectrum.
John Santaella January 26, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Well stated except for the part about members of Congress required to live in their districts. Unless things have changed, the late Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman representing a district in Brooklyn lived in Buffalo, NY. When she was first elected she lived in Brooklyn in her district but moved later on. I agree that in most cases where a municipal employee lives is no ones business but in the case of the Town Manager you make a very strong case for local habitat.
PM January 27, 2013 at 12:09 AM
So....dear town manager. What say you about moving to 07666. (Not a code word, just the zip code that gives you lucrative perks for your four day work week...
Art Vatsky January 27, 2013 at 05:10 AM
I think our Council should 1. Discontinue providing a township car for the manager. Use the money saved to help pay for the new OPRA assistant. 2. Return to the 5 day work week. 3. Provide an allowance for our manager to stay at a local hotel when staying late. 4. Future managers should be required to live in Teaneck or near-by. Perhaps no more than a 15 minute commute time. 5. Please remember during the interview process that the Manager made it absolutely clear he would not relocate his home which is in the southern half of NJ, yet the Council offered him the position. The township car came later. The Council's decisions do not appear in sync with the residents of Teaneck. No one speaks in support of renovating the former police station but they do want to see a DPW truck garage. Nearly 70% polled by the Patch said they wanted the 5 day work week yet we stay with 4 and 3 day work weeks. Nearly 90 people signed a petition to get a bus shelter at Chestnut Plaza yet none has appeared. Tell the Council your views by email or phone call. They obviously don't read the Patch.
Tom Abbott January 27, 2013 at 09:02 AM
Can you be specific. Which other Teaneck employees are provided a car for personal use?
Esther January 27, 2013 at 03:00 PM
Once the new OPRA position is approved, I think the Manager should hire either Alan Sohn, Chuck Powers, Senator Weinberg or Jack Castle for that position right away. From what I saw while watching the past few Council meetings, they seem to be filing lots of OPRA requests. This would allow them to get their info even sooner. @Art - What do you think?
Art Vatsky January 27, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Esther: You must be joking. Jason Castle and the rest already have busy lives. They OPRAS they request are serious. If we want a better, more efficiently run town, we need those OPRAs. I feel information security at the Teaneck Town Hall is excessive, something like the CIAs. When last I checked, you had to contact the Township Manager to find out who the Emergency Response Manager is. In another Township that Manager gets its own web page. Our Town Hall hours are only 35 hours a week, max. What do we do during the other 133 hours of the week? The Mayor frequently repeats he can't talk about the 4 or 5 day week because of union negotiations. I am not sure that is justified as the contract wording gives the manager the authority to set the town hall working hours. However, the Council may have "given away" that power once the 4 day work week was instituted making it hard to return to the 5 day work week. Teaneck residents have to speak up or pay up. Right now, I hope more of us - like Castle, Weinberg, Powers and Sohn - speak up so we have less to pay up.
Tee Smyth January 28, 2013 at 12:32 AM
This is still so laughable to me. The notion that the township is on a deadline to provide responses; yet, they aren't even open 5 days per week. Don't hire anyone else, open your doors more frequently and get it done! All hands on deck. "Fire" everyone and start over. Beginning with your inept council members.
John Santaella January 28, 2013 at 04:01 AM
We can't fire them all at one time. We can do so only at election time. But, can we guarantee we won't get equally inept ones?
zizi January 28, 2013 at 06:43 AM
Teaneck is the most corrupt town..... They find ways to spend tax money...... The manager work 4 days a week.... how he is expected to bring back 5 day work week?
zizi January 28, 2013 at 06:46 AM
"One request took eight hours for a staffer to process," according to Township Manager William Broughton. ONLY in Teaneck..... We should either fire the worker who needs 8 hours to fulfill one request or the manager who fails to find ways to at least force the workers to get their work done.....
John Santaella January 28, 2013 at 02:57 PM
It's not the workers fault. The problem starts from the top.
Tee Smyth January 28, 2013 at 04:38 PM
Oh, I know that we can't fire them all at once, my comment was kind of tongue-in-cheek. But, I have serious concerns about our council members. There has been such an ugliness on that council for some time now, and it has resulted in this level of hogwash. It's time to for some fresh energy.
Diggler January 28, 2013 at 09:06 PM
The police chief, deputy police chief, 3 police captains, and the fire chief all have take home vehicles. The fire chief's vehicle was purchased less than 2 years ago at a price of roughly $50,000. That's a total of 6 vehicles.
Art Vatsky January 29, 2013 at 03:14 AM
Diggler sounds well informed. The titles of those that have take home vehicles indicates they are "emergency first responders". I don't mind these employees having the cars. We want them to go straight to the scene of a fire or crime. I just hope they are a reasonable distance from Teaneck so they can get here quickly. Response time is a critical factor. I am told that the Manager's position is not in this category. This is where the Manager has a weak case. If an emergency occurs in Teaneck, he cannot respond quickly but, if he doesn't have to, why did the Council provide the car?
Tee Smyth January 29, 2013 at 01:48 PM
50k for one vehicle???? A take home vehicle at that??? Surely, you jest. If not, I hope it talks, makes coffee and puts out fires.
John Santaella January 29, 2013 at 02:50 PM
In fairness the Chiefs car needs sophisticated communications equipment, not just a walkie-talkie.
PM January 29, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Art, John - you guys have some fairly good ideas, and at least, a passion for Teaneck. How about running for council and help clean this town up.
JAD January 29, 2013 at 10:39 PM
I'm not positive but I think it may be a hybrid. Also as far as I know he doesn't have a 140 mile round trip commute and is required to show up for major incidents. I personally have no issue with those employees who are required to be present for major incidents to have a vehicle provided, I just think Jackson is beyond a reasonable tax payer supported commute
Art Vatsky January 30, 2013 at 05:35 AM
PM: Thank you but it takes a team. Our next Municipal election is still 16 months away. Four seats will be open and four votes makes a majority on our Council. Our current Council is not popular. Will the Town Hall return to a 5 day work week before the next election? Will it proceed with the unpopular ~$4 million renovation of the former police building without conducting a Town Hall workflow/needs study. Will it actually provide some kind of shelter for our DPW technicians to work on our trucks? Will it finally install the bus shelters that were supposed to be installed 7 years ago when Jon Corzine (remember him) was Governor? The whole town is watching.
Tee Smyth January 30, 2013 at 02:05 PM
That's 16 months to organize. Let's form a coalition: call it the Patch Possee. Lol. Kidding, but serious about coalition building.

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