A discussion of how meeting minutes are reported and the ongoing question of who should be appointed appropriate authority over the town’s police department dominated the meeting of Princeton Council on Monday night. The Council was evenly split on whether that authority should be the town’s administrator or the mayor and Council, forcing Mayor Liz Lempert, who only votes in the case of a tie, to weigh in.
The result was the introduction of an amended ordinance naming the administrator to the role, while delegating many of the normal duties of the appropriate authority to the governing body. A public hearing on the issue will be held at the next Council meeting September 23, before a final vote is taken.
Princeton’s beleagured police department (see story on litigation over former Chief David Dudeck) was the subject of several comments by residents during the public comment portion of the meeting. “The Princeton Police Department suffers from serious dysfunction,” said former Borough Council member Roger Martindell. “Your attention should be direct, transparent, and urgent. You must govern the department or it will govern you.” Mr. Martindell urged the Council to appoint a civilian public safety official from outside the department [see Mailbox].
Resident Dale Meade said he supported Mr. Martindell’s remarks, and quoted U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf with his own statement. ‘When in charge, take charge,” he said. “The plaintiffs in the lawsuit [against Chief Dudeck] are demanding a trial by jury, and as a taxpayer I’m demanding a trial by jury. Let’s get all the facts in public and settle this once and for all.”
Council member Heather Howard, who is the police commissioner, assured the public that these matters are taken seriously and that Council planned to discuss the litigation in closed session. “Sometimes, unfortunately, we are hampered in what we can say publicly,” she said. “These are all allegations that refer to actions before this year, and I want to make sure folks know that.”
Resident Peter Madison said, “The impression I get is that it’s not the police department running this town. It’s the police union that’s running this town.”
A work session on increased transparency and streamlined minutes was focused on how Council meetings should be recorded. The clerk’s office has been so busy with consolidation matters that the last minutes they have been able to complete were from April, said Mayor Lempert. She suggested that minutes should provide a record of votes. “But they should be less of a transcript of what each person has said,” she said. “It would be easier to keep them up to date.”
Links to the TV 30 network’s video archive of meetings will be posted on the municipal website. The videos provide a complete record of what transpires, “the best of both worlds,” Ms. Lempert said. While Council member Jenny Crumiller said she supported the streamlining, Patrick Simon expressed opposition because videos cannot be searched. “The things we say should be part of the public record, and should be easy to find,” he said.
The Council voted to implement the new system on a trial basis.
Former Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes updated Council on activities of the Alexander Street University Place Traffic/Transit Study, which was created as part of the Memorandum of Understanding between Princeton and Princeton University. The task force is composed of elected officials, municipal staff, and representatives from the University and the public. Meeting twice a month, they are charged with helping manage the flow of traffic as a result of the Arts & Transit complex at the University and several other sites under construction.
Mr. Wilkes said that by 2027, traffic is expected to increase markedly and design changes in the road network will be necessary. Also being looked at are strategies to extend rail service as well as building upon the existing Tiger Transit and FreeB buses. The group is nearly halfway through its work, Mr. Wilkes said, and will report to the community in October or November.