With much of the negative press about corruption scandals in Little Egg Harbor, and the national news about the recent referendum fight in Atlantic City to remove the Mayor position in favor of a professional City Manager, the question is raised: "Why don't Little Egg Harbor citizens get to elect their own Mayor?".
A direct vote for Mayor was one of several ethics reforms proposed by former Little Egg Harbor Township Committee candidate Sommer Fairl in 2017, designed to ensure integrity in our municipal government. She proposed instituting a direct Mayoral vote by legislation, but there are open legal questions as to whether direct election is workable without formally changing LEH's form of government, much like what was attempted in Atlantic City.
Little Egg Harbor exists as a township under NJSA:40A:63-1 et. seq. where voters elect a Township Committee of 5 at-large persons who serve staggered 3 year terms. The mayor is then elected by the Committee. This generally works for smaller communities like our own, but when the Township Committee becomes a partisan hegemony of folks not inclined to challenge each-other who effectively rubber stamp legislation with little or no debate, it becomes a serious problem and allows for abuse and corruption.
Shouldn't a mayor be accountable to the voter rather than the Township Committee? We think so, but absent the monumental effort to determine if a change in government is right for LEH, there is much that can be done to restore integrity to local governance. For example:
We propose legislation that prevents Committee Members from taking advantage of their positions of power the way that some incumbents have.
We propose that when Comitteepersons abstain from voting or recuse themselves during Township Committee meetings, that they must state for the record the reasons for their abstention as well as any potential conflicts of interest.
We propose compelling the tax assessor to conspicuously make an itemized and searchable budget available on the township's website for all of its citizens to review (Presently these records can only be inspected in person and by appointment).
We propose prohibiting pay-to-play schemes where businesses receive township contracts from political contributors.
Such ordinances would go a long way in preventing abuse of power and stymieing the increasingly worrisome relationship between money and politics, which naturally impacts the policy making decisions of elected officials looking toward their next bid for re-election. In our experience, corruption and graft are a common enemy to all Americans regardless of party and at all levels of government.
So what do you think? Would you prefer the mayor to be directly elected? Do you think corruption is a problem in government? What would you do beyond what we propose to change it?