Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Putz of the Week this week: Mayor Bob Hauck of Flemington

The Putz of the Week this week [and maybe the next few weeks] goes to:
Mayor Bob Hauck of Flemington, not the wisest mayor the town has ever had.

In the interest of complete transparency and disclosure, I need to reveal that I ran against Bob Hauck for mayor in 2006. So, some of you may think that my opinion is tainted. However, I have been to only one other Flemington Borough Council meeting this year, and mostly I have stayed at a safe distance from the workings of Council.

But not this time. I was compelled to attend a special meeting called in order to deal with what the mayor attempted to do.

The Mayor of Flemington Borough tried do an end run around the Borough Council and ---get this---the Flemington Borough Police Chief and tried to eliminate the police department, under the rubric of ‘shared services’.

Generally, during a budget crisis all avenues of budget cuts ---even tough ones---should be explored. However, the exploration should be done, openly, squarely, and transparently---with all members of Council and the public fully informed that such meetings are going on.

Hauck met secretly in private meetings on at least two occasions with the mayor of Raritan Township, and their chief of police to discuss the possibility of disbanding the Flemington Police Department. And he failed to tell the Flemington Police chief, and at least three other Borough Council members.

Not cool, Mayor Hauck. The people of Flemington and your Borough Council deserve much better than that.

A packed crowd inside [and outside] of a special meeting---was none too happy. Many in the SRO crowd were wearing T-shirts showing their support of the Flemington FOP. This has to be a completely wrongheaded move on Hauck’s part that will cost him any good will he has left, after the Union Hotel closed on his watch. And maybe this wrong move will cost him his re-election in two years.

This is a guy who, in the past, has played fast and loose with the local press on the ‘truth’, so it is no surprise that while he told Ronald Bakley, executive director of the state FOP lodge, that "There are no plans to disband the Flemington Police Department,” he was secretly having meetings to discuss “quietly disbanding the police department.”

During the Monday night meeting, Hauck stoically read from a carefully written bland statement, hardly acknowledging the communications fubar he caused with the town’s people and his own Council. And then on top of that, he attempted to shut down the public and violate the Open Public Meetings Act by not allowing public comment on the issue. Only through the insistence of several members in attendance was the right to speak asserted----and then confirmed by the town attorney. The mayor can impose a time limit on each member’s public comments in an open public meeting, but he may not shut people out completely.

A follow up meeting on this issue has been scheduled after the holidays in January, at a larger venue. Prediction: more of the same at the next meeting, and this idea to disband the police department will go down in flames.

Hauck should know better than to try to fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time.

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