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In re Application of County of Monmouth

Decided: February 1, 1978.

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF THE COUNTY OF MONMOUTH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TO FIX THE COMPENSATION TO BE PAID FOR THE PROPERTY OF SNYDER-WESTERLIND CORPORATION, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Lynch, Bischoff and Kole. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lynch, P.J.A.D.

Lynch

[156 NJSuper Page 189] This is an appeal by the Board of Freeholders of Monmouth County (hereafter "county") from an order of the Law Division enforcing a settlement agreement in a condemnation case. The agreement was effected by a resolution of the board of freeholders at a special meeting*fn1

on January 3, 1977. However, on February 1, 1977, after a change in the board's personnel, a resolution rescinding that of January 3 was adopted. Thereupon the property owner, Snyder-Westerlind Corporation, filed its motion to enforce the settlement resulting in the order from which this appeal is taken.

On appeal the county contends that the settlement resolution of January 3 was unenforceable because it was passed at a meeting which did not comply with the Open Public Meetings Act, N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 et seq. (hereafter "Sunshine Law"), particularly N.J.S.A. 10:4-9 and N.J.S.A. 10:4-8(d) concerning the requirement of adequate notice of the meeting.

N.J.S.A. 10:4-9(a) provides that no public body shall hold a meeting unless "adequate notice" is given. "Adequate notice" is defined in N.J.S.A. 10:4-8(d) (hereafter ยง 8(d)):

"Adequate notice" means written advance notice of at least 48 hours, giving the time, date, location and, to the extent known, the agenda of any regular, special or rescheduled meeting, which notice shall accurately state whether formal action may or may not be taken and which shall be (1) prominently posted in at least one public place reserved for such or similar announcements, (2) mailed, telephoned, telegrammed, or hand-delivered to at least two newspapers which newspapers shall be designated by the public body to receive such notices because they have the greatest likelihood of informing the public within the area of jurisdiction of the public body of such meetings * * *. [Emphasis added]

Neither the 48-hour time element nor the procedure of publication is in issue here. The sole issue relates to the content of the notice insofar as it purports to state the agenda of the meeting. It merely stated: "The purpose of this meeting is for the Board to meet with Mr. J. McMahon, attorney." It is a fact that McMahon was the attorney for Snyder-Westerlind Corporation, the owner of the condemned property.

The condemnation case had been tried from October 25 to November 4, 1976 and resulted in a jury verdict fixing the compensation at $1,093,000. Judgment was entered November 30, 1976. The judgment provided for payment of interest at the rate of 8% on the amount unpaid ($466,000) at the time of the entry of judgment. The settlement effected at the January 3 special meeting concerned the payment of this interest and provided that interest was to be paid only through November 30, 1976 and was waived thereafter. It was also conditioned on "receipt of $194,000 from Green Acres and that the balance would be funded without bonding either by revenue sharing or general funds."

At the meeting of January 3 the director of the board asserted that everyone would have to know why the board was meeting with McMahon and that "we would be less than naive if we didn't know." Of course, whatever knowledge the director or other board members may have had concerning the purpose of the meeting, such does not satisfy the statutory requirement that the public be provided with that knowledge prior to the meeting. N.J.S.A. 10:4-9(a).

Section 8(d) provides that the notice "shall accurately state whether formal action may or may not be taken" at the meeting. Merely stating that there would be a meeting with Mr. McMahon falls far short of advising of such action or lack of action.

Section 8(d) also provides that the notice shall contain "to the extent known, the agenda" of the meeting. The minutes of the January 3 meeting reveal that the meeting was called expressly ...


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