Open Government Advocacy Project
The Open Government Advocacy Project is a committee of the NJ Libertarian Party. Its goal is to ensure transparency and accountability at all levels of government. Articles posted here are a subset of the work of the committee. For more information visit the Open Government Advocacy Project blog.
If you would like to demand accountability and ensure that your local governing body or school board adheres to the Open Public Records Act we can help you request information from them. Contact John Paff, the project chair here.
After reading a Press of Atlantic City article that said that an employee in Atlantic City destroyed public records, I asked the Atlantic City Prosecutor to investigate the employee--Marisol Rosario--for a possible violation of the Destruction of Public Records Law, a crime of the third degree. See the letter and news article HERE.
In a May 19, 2008 letter, Piscataway Township Clerk, Ann Nolan, backed away from her previously held position that $25 was the proper charge for a compact disc (CD) of a Township Council meeting. She agreed that the cost should be $1, which is closer to the actual cost of a blank CD.
Nolan's change of position came after the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project challenged the $25 charge. All relevant correspondence is on-line at the Open Government Task Force Site.
I learned today that Salem County, New Jersey Prosecutor John T. Lenahan wrote a May 16, 2008 letter to every municipal clerk and municipal attorney in that county "strongly suggesting that [they] review the policies and procedures relating to [their] Open Public Meetings Act compliance [and that] full and complete compliance is absolutely necessary to avoid the possibility of monetary sanctions . . .".
Prosecutor John T. Lenahan credits the New Jersey Libertarian Party for prompting this action.
Court Says OPRA Request Is Valid Even If Identifying Data Is Minimal
By Maria Vogel-Short
New Jersey Law Journal
May 12, 2008
An Open Public Records Act request specific enough to identify a dossier must be granted, even if the requester provides only a bare-bones description and some research by the responding agency is required, a Mercer County judge says.
Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ruled that a request giving only a party's initials — since the name was not known — was limited in scope, sufficiently detailed and not unfairly burdensome.
Feinberg gave the state 10 days to produce the document and awarded counsel fees to the requester, John Paff of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project.
For the full story, click HERE (requires subscription!).
This is a follow up to an earlier article posted HERE.
Mercer County Assignment Judge Linda R. Feinberg ruled in my favor today in my Open Public Records Act case against the Division of Law. The NJLP is mentioned on the first page of the Court's opinion, which is on-line HERE
My case against Edison, originally scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, May 13, 2008, has been postponed to a date yet to be determined.
The case documents, including briefs, are on-line at the NJLP Open Government Division of Law Page.
I was ably represented by Richard Gutman, Esq. of Montclair and the Division of Law was represented by Deputy Attorney General Sarah B. Campbell, Esq.
An article concerning the NJLP's Open Government efforts in Washington Borough (Warren County) appeared in today's Express-Times.
The party's letter to the Mayor and Council, the Borough's new form of closed session resolution, and a memorandum by the Borough attorney are all on the NJLP Open Government Website.
In a Friday, April 25, 2008 editorial, the Express Times (covering Warren County, New Jersey) wrote favorably about the NJLP's Open Government Advocacy Project's work.
Officials should know laws about open governmentFriday, April 25, 2008
Shining a light
Most elected officials in New Jersey cringe when John Paff shows up at public meetings. He's been hop-scotching across the state pointing out the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which municipalities and school boards fail the public when it comes to open government. ...
Read the entire story HERE
This article appeared in the Express Times about the NJLP's effort to get Washington Borough in Warren County to: a) give the public more detailed reasons why it goes into closed session and b) to advertise the amounts of its no-bid contract awards.
Open-records activist targets WashingtonBorough urged to give specific reasons for closed sessions.Wednesday, April 23, 2008By LYNN OLANOFFThe Express-Times
WASHINGTON | A state advocate for open public records who last year raised questions about Washington Township's closed-session policies is raising similar questions in the borough.
John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy ...
Read the full article on the Express Times website.
In response to a letter from the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project, the Borough of Elmer (Salem County) has agreed to make itself more transparent.
First, the Borough has placed its Open Public Records Act request form on its Internet site. Previously, the only way to get the request form was to request it from the Borough Clerk. This could inconvenience the public and delay citizens' requests.
On April 2, 2008, the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project wrote to Watchung Borough in Somerset County regarding four areas where the Borough wasn't compliant with the Open Public Meetings Act. On April 10, 2008, the Council, in response to the Libertarian Party's April 2, 2008 letter, passed the resolution pasted below.
The Borough Council is promising to do a better job providing the public with:
My months of appealing to the Burlington County Prosecutor's office for help enforcing the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) appear to have paid off.
I learned today that on March 18, 2008, Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi sent a letter to at least some (and hopefully all) municipalities in Burlington County "strongly suggest[ing]" that they review the OPMA, and advising them that "full and complete compliance with all provisions of the OPMA is absolutely necessary to avoid the possibility of monetary sanctions [and] . . . to continue to maintain the public trust." He credited the NJLP as being the impetus for the letter.