In his second meeting as a Galloway Councilman, Jim McElwee began the follow-through on one of his campaign promises.
“I promised to support open and transparent government,” McElwee said as he asked about making the township’s website compliant with the state’s Department of Community Affairs regulations.
“The budgets and the minutes are already posted on the website,” Township Manager Arch Liston said in response to the question posed at the council meeting on Dec. 11.
McElwee is concerned with the number of Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests filed in Galloway Township. Galloway has seen a high number of these requests over the last few years, and at one point, complained that the requests were bogging down the clerk’s office.
“If people see the information on the website, they wouldn’t have to bother with filing an OPRA request,” McElwee said.
According to Township Clerk Thalia C. Kay, the township is looking to join E360, which would allow the township to store five years worth of records on its website.
“I would like to see them have all the minutes and the contracts on there,” McElwee said. “Anything that’s not personal information. They should have anything that’s accessible to the public.”
He pointed to Hamilton Township, which posts the meeting minutes for council, planning board, zoning board and various other committees on its website.
“They don’t have a problem with OPRA,” McElwee said.
Ensuring the township’s website meets DCA standards is part of the state’s Best Practices Checklist, and the township has been working to meet the requirements.
Recently, the township redesigned its website and started a new Facebook page and a new Twitter account. It’s been using both to keep residents updated as to what is happening in the township, and could be used to keep residents updated as to what documents have been posted to the website. Hamilton doesn’t post its closed session minutes online, however. An OPRA request is still necessary to obtain copies of those minutes.
Still, McElwee believes that if the township posted everything to its website, residents would visit the site before filing OPRA requests. McElwee’s party has made this point in the past, including a Letter to the Editor from Democratic Club President Kevin Krumaker on this subject earlier this year.
McElwee will continue to pursue the issue.
“I’m going to find out what has to be done and how long it’s going to take,” McElwee said. “I take (Kay) at her word, but I still need more details.”