Saturday, July 23, 2011

Who's Making Our Voting Policy?

by Jon Latimer

At its next meeting on Tuesday, July 26, the Princeton Landing Board of Directors is planning to approve a new policy for elections in our community. The proposed policy has not been published for community review and comment prior to the vote, and the community has not been notified of the upcoming Board vote.

Past Board practice has been that a director up for reelection would not participate in decisions about an election in which he or she would be a candidate. However, Board members Beth Dalzell and Av Magram, who will be up for reelection in the fall, have been directly involved in preparing the new election rules. Even more troubling, they have held meetings about the new rules that were not open to all members of the committee supposedly responsible for drafting them. But Bill Hart, a former director, has participated. Hart was defeated in last year's Board election but seems to be preparing to be a candidate again in 2011. Just a few days ago, he was prominently identified as "Associate Editor" in the Princeton Landing Summer Newsletter that the Association sent to residents. Dalzell is the Board member responsible for the Communications Committee, which prepares the newsletter.

In the 2009 Board election, the last time Dalzell and Magram were candidates for reelection, the same three (Hart, Dalzell and Magram) went door to door giving residents copies of ballots along with their own electioneering information, and collecting completed ballots. If a similar tactic were used in an election for the school board, township committee or other local government body, it would violate New Jersey election law.

The Board of Directors is the governing body of this large community. It has the sole authority to make decisions on matters of great importance to all of us, including the Association's budget and monthly fees. Proper management of our community depends on fair and open elections for members of the Board. Elections should be conducted under rules that are established by a fair and open process. Individuals who have a vested interest in what rules get adopted should not be making those rules. Before any new election policy is adopted, it should be published for review by all residents. The Board should approve it only after the community has been given sufficient prior notice of the meeting where that will be done.