The advisory committee that made the recommendation isn’t legally required to keep records, so the decision remains a mystery

By Colleen O’Dea

Those looking for insights into how the committee that recommended Gov. Chris Christie give Rutgers University’s Camden campus to Rowan University made its decisions are out of luck.

Apparently, the only written records of the UMDNJ Advisory Committee are its preliminary and final reports. And 21 of the final report’s 57 pages are the preliminary report, with six of those pages repeated twice.

The only data in the report is contained in four pages of appendices, and they only present enrollments, faculty and staff sizes at the affected schools and employee and patient statistics for University Hospital in Newark.

In responding to a public records request filed by NJ Spotlight with the governor’s office for the last six months of meeting minutes of the advisory committee, which was created by an executive order last April, Assistant Counsel Amy Cattafi wrote that her office “has not identified any records responsive to your request.” A call to request clarification went unreturned.

Sol J. Barer, who chaired the advisory committee, said prior to last Thursday’s Rutgers Board of Trustees meeting that the committee did not keep any minutes.

John Paff, a well-known open-government activist, said that “purely advisory bodies are not subject” to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, which requires that most governmental meetings be conducted in public and that bodies keep records of their actions and discussions.

“I am shocked to learn that there would be no transparency” regarding the advisory committee’s process, said Andrew Shankman, an associate professor of history at Rutgers-Camden. “The Barer committee report is at best a completely slipshod document without any evidence to support its recommendations.”

“This is a thesis-driven argument: He decided on a thesis and then went ahead with it without proof,” Shankman continued. “That’s something scholars do not do.”


Similar Posts