By Tim O’Meilia
Manalapan town commissioners verbally skirmished over police criminal statistics, police dispatch services and whether residents and commissioners were burdening the town staff with too many requests.
In the end — nearly four hours later — nothing changed.
Commissioners did not follow up on Mayor Basil Diamond’s proposal that commission approval be required for requests by residents and commissioners to the town staff and consultants for research beyond basic public records searches.
“You are trying to stop any commissioner from getting information required to make an intelligent decision,” Commissioner Howard Roder told the mayor.
Town Manager Linda Stumpf said the staff had fielded numerous requests when the commission was considering shifting police services to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s time-consuming,” Stumpf said. “Ninety-nine percent was related to public safety, and it is more than just copies — it’s analyzing data, compiling logs.”
Town Attorney Trela White said she had few requests to her office.
Commissioner Donald Brennan said that crime statistics released by town officials were not shown as misleading until deeper analysis showed otherwise.
Police Chief Carmen Mattox said people misinterpreted statistics noted as “incidents” as criminal activity.
“I almost fell off the dais when I learned that incidents were far exaggerated in terms of their importance,” Brennan said. “The information provided early on turned out to be wrong, and I feel pretty stupid.”
“I almost fell off the dais when I heard there were only one or two  dispatch calls a month,” he added.
After making numerous requests to town officials, resident Kersen DeJong provided many of the statistics Brennan referred to. He said he has never requested research and spoke to the town attorney twice. He praised Town Clerk Lisa Petersen for timely responses.
Commissioner David Cheifetz said there was no need to solve a problem where none existed.
In other business: Commissioners set workshops for early next year to deal with the town’s election process and with the budget.
In January, the commission will discuss Brennan’s proposal to reduce the number of commissioners from seven to five, requiring two from the oceanfront, two from the point and the mayor alternating every few years.
There is too little time to place any potential charter change on the March ballot.
In February, the commission will discuss accelerating the annual budget process and dealing with its overall approach.
This year the commission compressed several workshops into the last few weeks before the budget deadline required by state law. Several commissioners suggested beginning budget hearings at least in July.
Commissioners also will consider zero-based budgeting, justifying every line item.
By Tim O’Meilia