By CAROL COMEGNO
The private group that operates the Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum has voted to expand its board of trustees by up to 10 members and change the way it elects officers.
It could fill some new seats at a closed-door meeting aboard the ship Wednesday.
The nonprofit Home Port Alliance is not governed by the sunshine law, but had been holding a monthly public meeting until the ship opened last fall. No public meetings have been held since.
At a meeting last month, bylaws were revised to enlarge the board from 15 to 25 members. The board is not required to fill all the seats.
"We want to be a more (geographically) diverse board, to include all parts of the community and all parts of the state," said alliance co-chairwoman Patricia Jones, a Democrat who is Camden County's elected surrogate. Another way it hopes to broaden its membership is by tapping business leaders, she said.
The board now comprises mostly governmental and civic leaders from South Jersey.
The other co-chairman, Sen. John Matheussen, R- Gloucester, said the board has asked state battleship commission chairman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, to become a board member. The gesture is intended to bring the two battleship organizations closer, he said.
The long-standing battleship commission, which endorsed a museum site in Bayonne, promotes the preservation of the battleship as a museum and controls some public funding for the ship. Azzolina could not be reached for comment Monday.
A new member expected to join the board is retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Preston Taylor, who is now Lumberton's mayor. He was business administrator for Camden at the time the South Jersey-based alliance started its uphill campaign in 1998 to secure the nation's most decorated battleship for a museum on the Camden Waterfront.
Taylor also awaits Senate confirmation of his appointment to the state battleship commission by Gov. James E. McGreevey.
The new bylaws prohibit six members from voting for board officers at Wednesday's annual reorganization. Those six are the board's ex-officio members, whose seats are specifically designated for leaders of certain agencies or their representatives.
The ex-officios are the mayor of Camden, the president of the Camden Empowerment Zone Corp., the county freeholder- director, state Department of Transportation commissioner, state adjutant general and the vice chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority.
They will be permitted to vote on all other matters, said Jones.
Those agencies gave more than $20 million in grants or loans to help restore the ship and build a pier and visitor center.
That's one reason why Frank Fulbrook, president of the Camden Empowerment Zone Corp., said he voted against the bylaws. He was the lone dissenting vote.
Jones said the board was legally advised that since ex- officios cannot serve as board officers, they should not be permitted to vote for them. "Unlike other nonprofit boards where ex-officios vote on nothing, our members vote on all policy-making decisions," she said.
The trustees also agreed recently to create the new post of chief operating officer. That job would be in addition to the post of executive director now filled by retired Rear Adm. Thomas Seigenthaler of Haddonfield. Matheussen said the COO would oversee maintenance, supplies, employee management and other day-to-day operations, while Seigenthaler's duties would include fund-raising and more contact with the public.