by Linda Baum
Assume you are hired to take the minutes at a meeting but you don’t show up. Should you – can you – still do the minutes? Should you be paid for it?
The Middletown Sewerage Authority thinks so. The public agency paid their recording secretary, Marie Schillberg, $150 to prepare the minutes for the March 2014 board meeting, but she wasn’t there.
The Authority doesn’t audio record its meetings, which means you have to be there to know what was said. So how did Ms. Schillberg do the minutes? Someone else who was present simply told her what the votes were and who attended. That’s it. There was no record made of the meeting discussion.
Ms. Schillberg, whom research shows is the spouse of former municipal court judge Robert Schillberg, was appointed as the Authority’s recording secretary in 1999 when her husband was sitting on the bench in Middletown and the Authority’s then-director held a seat on the Township Committee. The appointment resolution (Res. 67/99) is the shortest I’ve ever seen at just 20 words, with no mention of salary, duties or term of service.
I’ve asked the Authority’s board members many times what they feel the role of the recording secretary is, but they don’t respond. They have yet to add substance to their minutes and still don’t require their recording secretary to take notes at meetings, though supposedly that’s the job she was hired to do.
Typically, Ms. Schillberg sits for the majority of each meeting with her hands folded or in her lap, pen down, as seen in the photo here. Further, her presence or absence should be part of the official record, but there is no mention of her in the minutes for any meeting.
As a public agency, the Authority is legally required (per the Open Public Meetings Act) to meet a certain standard with regard to the record keeping for its meetings, and therefore responsibility here lies with the Authority and its board. They need to take corrective action and should have done so a long time ago.