January 11, 2012

Township First to Select Transition Team

Four applicants with backgrounds in academia, business, social services, and politics were recently selected by Princeton Township to serve on the consolidation transition team. The Borough has not yet announced its choices.

The transition team has been charged by the Consolidation Commission with implementing its recommendations for consolidation, which will take effect in January 2013. Both municipalities were asked to select four residents; three transition team members and one alternate. Two elected officials from both the Borough and Township will also serve, along with administrators Jim Pascale and Bob Bruschi. The Consolidation Commission, which is a separate entity, will continue to function in an advisory role.

Township choices included Dorothea Berkhout, executive director for administration at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University;К

Linda Mather, president of Beacon Consulting Associates and a regular League of Women Voters moderator who also served on the 1991 consolidation committee; and Scott Sillars, president of Isles E4 and chair of the Citizen’s Finance Advisory Committee for Princeton Township since 2007. Gary O. Patterson, a senior executive with Miller Investment Management, was selected as an alternate.

“Scott, Thea, Linda and Gary are all extremely well qualified and each brings different, complementary skills to the table,” said Township Committee member (and new Deputy Mayor) Liz Lempert, who, along with then-Deputy Mayor Sue Nemeth, interviewed the candidates.

Applicants who were not chosen may still be asked by the transition team to serve on subcommittees. “We had many qualified applicants and want to take advantage of the great pool of talent that came forward,” noted Township Mayor Chad Goerner.

All interviews for Township members of the transition team were conducted in December by Ms. Lempert and Ms. Nemeth. “We reviewed their work in late December and met in closed session to discuss how we could put a team together with various strengths,” Mr. Goerner said.

In response to recent comments complaining that the selection process did not take place at public meetings, Ms. Nemeth observed that “interviews were conducted in a manner that allowed for candid and thorough discussion of each individual’s expertise, interests, and time availability. A public interview process would not have afforded us enough time or provide enough privacy to adequately weigh the commitment of serving.”

Ms. Lempert similarly commented that ‘Interviewing in private allows for a more open and relaxed dialog, and helps us to better evaluate candidates. This was the same process we used to select the Consolidation Commission members, as well as other committees.”

“The public should know that we recommended the very best team selected from among a highly qualified pool of candidates and hope many who were not selected will serve on subcommittees formed by the Task Force,” Ms. Nemeth added.

“We are anxious to move this process forward as soon as possible and hope that the Borough is able to make their appointments soon,” noted Mr. Goerner.

Borough Council members were scheduled to meet in a closed session last night (January 10) to discuss the appointments, before their scheduled public meeting.

The issue was first discussed at a private, unannounced meeting in late December of Council members Jo Butler, Kevin Wilkes, Jenny Crumiller, Mayor-elect Yina Moore and Councilwoman-elect Heather Howard. Eight candidates were selected from a list of applicants interested in representing the Borough. They were interviewed, in an open session, on January 3.

Councilman Roger Martindell took exception to the implication that Council was going to select from that group in a closed session. At press time, he said he intended to ask at the January 10 meeting that the appointments be discussed instead at an open session.

“The selection of persons to interview for the transition task force should be by publicly acknowledged criteria following public interviews of candidates,” he said. “Since we have not, as of the January 10 meeting, accomplished those goals, then I think it’s important to hold the process open and continuing so that we might select the persons in the most open and rational way possible. I look forward to doing so in the next few days ahead.”

Ms. Crumiller said in an email that meetings by governing bodies to discuss personnel matters, including appointments, are always done in closed session, “for a good reason.

“It would a disservice to volunteer applicants to discuss their relative merits in public,” she said. “Given that the Township Committee had chosen its Task Force members weeks ago, the Council felt a sense of urgency in moving the transition process forward and catching up to the Township Committee.”

“Frankly, it’s frustrating that people who agreed to that process are now raising issues about it,” she added. “There was not a peep of dissent over the plan until a few days ago. I hope we can move forward and name the task force — we have remarkable citizen applicants and we need to let these volunteers get to work. We’re anticipating that those volunteers who are not chosen for the task force will be considered for a subcommittee, where we expect most of the work to take place.”