The Manasquan Borough Council's Republican members on Monday failed to block the approval of a $350 payment for t-shirts purchased by a borough organization.
Republicans Patricia Connolly and Marilyn Jacobson voted to reject the purchase order filed by the Environmental Commission, which used $353 from its budget, funded by taxpayer dollars, to purchase seven shirts for its members to wear during public functions.
Connolly, who raised the issue during the governing body's work session, said taxpayers should not fund such purchases and instead suggested the bill be paid personally by the commission's members.
The notion sparked an intricate debate regarding the borough's purchase order approval process, resulting in some council members suggesting the borough craft a policy governing what items should and shouldn't be covered by municipal budgets, and how certain purchases would be approved.
Directly following the 4-2 vote down party lines to approve the bill, the commission's chairman, Michael Sinneck, running as a Republican in November's Borough Council election, expressed outrage with the 15-minute-long discussion regarding the purchase.
"I sit here tonight and I'm amazed by this conversation, and disturbed by it," Sinneck said. "And if you really are that upset about it, I'll pay for the damn thing myself."
Connolly at the top of the discussion said the Administration and Finance Committee, which she chairs, would not approve the $353 purchase.
"We feel the taxpayers should not be paying for this clothing," Connolly said. "For seven people, that's $50 a shirt."
The Administration and Finance Committee, however, did not see the bill until after the purchase order was approved by the department head and the borough's chief financial officer, Joe DeIorio, officials said.
The process of signing bills, DeIorio said, is that once a department head signs off on a purchase order, it comes to the CFO for certification of funds.
Once the CFO signs off, it goes to the vendor, "essentially a contract," he said.
"They've been purchased, but who's going to pay for them? The taxpayers or the individuals on the committee?" Connolly said.
While the governing body approved the t-shirt purchase, members said they would notify the borough's other municipal-funded commissions and organizations to caution them against making similar purchases.
Members also said a policy governing the spending approval process and how municipal funds should be permitted to be spent likely would be explored.
"We might want to take a look at all boards and commissions and a policy on what they can and can't spend their money on, but without knowing any facts about it, I think (the Environmental Commission) might have been operating under the assumption that they were able to do that," Mangan said.
Connolly said that she was worried allowing one purchase would open the floodgates for every municipal organization to buy their own shirts, costing taxpayers in the aggregate more than a mere $353.
"The commission has been in effect for over 25 years, it's one of the oldest commissions that we have in this town. They've never -- never -- considered even wanting shirts," Connolly said. "And I don't know all of a sudden this is going to start for everyone on all of these volunteer committees to have shirts, and that's going to be quite expensive for the taxpayers."
Sinneck defended the commission's actions, saying its members simply wanted a way to indentify themselves to the public during various functions they participate in.
"We made an assumption that we were authorized by the purchase order process to commit the funds of our budget, which has been reduced by about 60 percent over the last three years, to purchase these shirts, to identify ourselves in all the events we participate in around the town. And there are many, many, many events," he said.
"I am embarassed by this conversation. I think the (approval) process is broken, I don't think it actually works," Sinneck said. "Your Environmental Commission today does remarkable work for the town. We can and will do more."