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Why So Camera Shy?

Township personnel and tax sale investors are surprisingly squeamish with a citizen photographer in their midst.

Those who invest in other people’s hardships are awfully camera shy, it turns out.

Of the 15 or so bidders at Tuesday’s municipal tax sale, several of them acted as though they were on a perp walk outside Central Booking. This, despite their presence in a public meeting, in a public location. I’d expect if you’re attending an auction of tax liens in the first place, you’d be rather thick-skinned when it comes to your image, a little more Tony Soprano and less Justin Bieber. But apparently that’s not so.

As this group of “investors” heard and bid on some 1,100 liens—the vast majority, according to Township Tax Collector Sandra Ferguson, the result of unpaid sewer bills rather than actual, you know, taxes—there was a mixture of curiosity and alarm at this renegade photographer in their midst.

“Who are you representing?” they kept asking, as if one needs some affiliation to—gasp!—take a picture with a digital SLR camera in a public place. Everyone and everything is photographed with smart phones these days, but whip out a Canon EOS Rebel and you have to be “representing” someone.

Even less enthusiastic about this invasion of public privacy were the township personnel running the proceedings. In a move that would make Joseph Stalin proud, they summoned Gloucester Township’s Finest upon deciding that the click of a shutter was disrupting their horse trading. Despite being well within my rights as a citizen to document the goings-on, I was asked rather firmly to leave. Which begs a few questions:

- If these individuals are conducting legitimate business—and I’ll stipulate that they are—why do they care whether their pictures are being taken?

- When did Gloucester Township rewrite the Constitution to bar a concerned citizen from a public meeting?

- Who exactly are these people who cracked jokes as they sifted through individual property liens—some of which were for $100 or less—including asking the one black member of the panel if she was the “tough-looking cookie” responsible for collecting most of the delinquent taxes prior to the sale?  

- And the big one…why did the township council postpone its final 2012 meeting from the day before the tax sale to nine days after, right between Christmas and New Year’s?

The guess here is they were afraid of citizens carrying cameras.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Charles December 21, 2012 at 01:18 PM
As a side note, cockroaches and rats scurry when exposed to the light.
Darren Gladden December 21, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Thank you for what you are doing "SIR" ..... Nice Read
GTWatchdawg December 23, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Gloucester Township, USSR..Sound Familiar?
GTWatchdawg December 23, 2012 at 02:48 PM
FYI: Was in the Courier Post today 12/23/12 OPRA vote delayed Written by Michael Symons New Jersey Press Media TRENTON — Advocates for updating New Jersey’s public records and public meeting laws say they’ll try again in February after votes were scrapped Thursday in the state Senate. The updates to the Open Public Records Act would ensure unedited audio or video recordings of public meetings are public records and exempt some email addresses from public disclosure. It would also create conditions under which someone who wins access to public records by going to Superior Court might not be awarded attorney’s fees, among other changes. It would also specify that information about grant reviewers, donations and E-ZPass records for statevehicles are public records. A second bill seeks to provide the public more access to and information about government meetings. It would exclude weekends and holidays from the requirement to provide 48 hours written notice before a meeting can be held, require meeting agendas to be posted prominently on government websites and bar elected officials — except for lawmakers — from exchanging emails or text messages during a meeting, among other changes. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said “minor changes” to language in the bills will be made but the bills may be in position for a vote in early February, the Senate’s next voting session.
Randy December 25, 2012 at 06:48 PM
The Mayor Dave Mayer is organizer to the corrupt schemes in this township. He should be under a Federal investigation if he isn't already for what is doing in that Municipal office. Kickbacks and bribes. He's now a lobbyist for Verizon and Comcast and he has a secretary and assemblywoman working in dual offices. Unreal. Those tax sales have been a big kickback and don't forget his blogger buddy Frank Mellace who taking in the cash and checks of the people and then reporting personal information. Dirty dirty lowdown crooks

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