O'Shea settles again

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    WEST MILFORD-Martin O'Shea, West Milford's self appointed government watchdog, settled a second lawsuit in as many weeks, this time with the board of education. Over the past year and a half, O'Shea has taken action against the town council, the planning board, the board of education and the town clerk for what he viewed as flagrant disregard of the state's open meetings and open records laws. All of these actions have resulted in the governing bodies retaining lawyers, and the legal costs have become a political hot potato. The township and the school district together have spent in excess of $80,000 defending themselves. Last week, O'Shea settled an open meeting suit with the town council in much the same way he settled with the board of education this week — that is, by agreeing to drop the suit in exchange for the boards passing a formal resolution to conduct their business in public in accordance with the open meeting laws. This includes public access to the minutes from executive sessions minus the few exceptions specified by the law. On the matter of the town council suit, Councilman Joseph Elcavage said, "The members of the council have endeavored to treat Mr. O'Shea with respect. We took his lawsuit very seriously, and we settled because we believed it was in the best interest of the township to do so." On Tuesday night, as soon as the board of education took what was a unanimous vote to pass the resolution that settled the matter, board member David Pry expressed his feelings about it, saying "I'm glad we have finally settled this ridiculous case ... it is a travesty we needed to put to rest." O'Shea responded to Pry's statement later, saying, "The travesty Mr. Pry mentioned is really that the board of ed had to be sued in order to construct an open meeting policy in accordance with the law." But the two settlements do not mean O'Shea is finished. He has another matter pending with the school district regarding hand written notes to which he believes the public should have access. The district contends that they are memory aids and as such should not be considered public documents. In addition, O'Shea has an on-going lawsuit with the planning board. In other business: The board of education continues to hear comments from frustrated parents over cutbacks in the district. The two most contentious issues are the dissolution of Learning Unlimited as a full time program in the middle school and the class sizes of the second grade at Maple Road School. Learning Unlimited will become a part time pull-out program for the 2005-2006 school year. The class sizes of the second grade at Maple Road are currently at 25 and 26 pupils. Parents would like to see a third section added.