HILLSBOROUGH: Mayor and committee failed to represent citizens properly

Sonya Martin, Hillsborough
The citizens of Hillsborough deserve to be well represented and I believe that the mayor and Township Committee failed to take enough action on behalf of our residents.
On June 9, as reported in the Hillsborough Beacon on June 11, the mayor and our Township Committee were notified by the New Jersey Racing Commission that the application for the Off Track Wagering (OTW) facility and restaurant in Hillsborough was complete — more than one month prior to the July 22 Racing Commission’s scheduled public hearing on that OTW application.
Despite this notice the mayor and /or Township Committee did not file a request for said application pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Appropriate legal action was not taken to obtain this vital document for our residents and to post it online in advance of the public hearing. This is a legal right under OPRA and the committee failed to exercise that right in order to ensure that our citizens would receive timely access to the information contained in the application.
In the end, our ability as residents of Hillsborough to participate in any real or meaningful way at this public hearing was not protected by our elected leaders.
Too little, too late, after the public hearing was held, Mayor Douglas Tomson “went to the Commission’s offices in Trenton on Monday” ( as quoted from the Hillsborough Beacon on Aug. 6). That same article states that Mayor Tomson was “among the first three people to make a public records request.” He went on to state that he “did what every member of the public can do and made an open public records act [sic].”
The members of our Township Committee are not like every member of the public. They are elected to protect our interests and keep us informed. They have access to information and communications that the average citizen does not. They failed to get our citizens the information we needed before the OTW public hearing on July 22.
I attended both the public forum on the OTW facility on April 16, 2014, and the recent public hearing on the OTW application on July 22. At this hearing Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and township leaders criticized and protested the decision of the Racing Commission to withhold public access to the OTW application.
During the hearing I questioned the commissioners on their decision and asked if their decision under OPRA had been legally challenged. They replied no. I stated that its “legality should be challenged.“ It was then that I became aware that the Township Committee had not taken steps to legally challenge the decision of the Racing Commission.
As a former Township Committeewoman and resident, I was disappointed that the public had been denied access to the OTW application. It is noteworthy that soon after the public hearing the Racing Commission reversed its position when three OPRA requests were actually filed and provided the OTW application expeditiously.
Whether or not you support the OTW facility, it is your right, as a citizen of Hillsborough, to expect your representatives to do everything possible to request, and make public, the very information that allows you to make important decisions and provide thoughtful input.
There is a reason the Racing Commission was required to hold a public hearing on this issue. There is no fair hearing when our representatives do not do their part to make sure our citizens come to this hearing well-informed and able to speak cogently on the topic at hand. Why did the mayor and Township Committee drop the ball by not filing an OPRA request to the Racing Commission a month before the public hearing once they knew the OTW application was complete? 
Sonya Martin 
Hillsborough 