I would like to commend the Borough of Hightstown (Mercer County) on the transparent manner in which it recently filled a vacant seat on its municipal council.

One member of the Borough Council, a Republican, resigned. According to the Municipal Vacancy Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:16-1, et seq., the local Republican Committee submitted the names of three nominees to the Borough Council. The Council was then obliged to select one of those nominees to serve the remainder of the vacated term.

I have witnessed vacancies being filled by other public bodies, and the process is usually shrouded in secrecy. Typically, the nominees are interviewed during an executive session and the public is only allowed to witness a formal vote installing the successful nominee. (The leading case on the process of filling vacancies is enunciated in Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. vs. Board of Education of Manville, 201 N.J. Super. 65 (Law Div. 1984), which is on-line here.

Hightstown, however, did it right.

First, after the Republican Committee submitted the names of the three nominees, their resumes were posted on the Borough’s website prior to the September 28, 2010 meeting at which the selection was made. Then, the entire selection process, including detailed interviews of the three candidates and the Council's deliberations, was held in public allowing citizens to witness the formulation and decision making process from start to finish.

The agenda of the September 28, 2010 meeting, the resolution to fill the vacancy and the three nominees' resumes are on-line here.

I commend Hightstown's mayor and council for the manner in which they handled this process. Readers should insist that their municipalities and school boards follow Hightstown's example the next time a vacancy needs to be filled.