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.
On Tuesday, February 23, 2016, the Bergen County NAACP will host a public forum to discuss proposed legislation that seeks to prevent public access to all police camera recordings and 911 calls. The forum, which is open to all, will begin at 7 p.m. at the Teaneck High School Media Center at 100 Elizabeth Avenue.
At issue is Senate Bill 788, sponsored by Senator Paul A. Sarlo (D-Bergen/Passaic), which would amend the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) so that "law enforcement camera recordings" and "9-1-1 audio recordings or transcripts" could not be disclosed to the public. Specifically, S788 would add the following two exceptions to OPRA:
- law enforcement camera recordings, except for use by any person authorized by law to have access to the recordings or for use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, for purposes of the administration of justice;
- 9-1-1 audio recordings or transcripts of a 9-1-1 call;
On Friday, March 4, 2016 at 9 a.m. Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Turula will hear my Open Public Records Act (OPRA) case against the City of Bayonne. See, Paff v. City of Bayonne et al, Docket No. HUD-L-5203-15. This is the lawsuit discussed in Jonathan Lin's January 27, 2016 Jersey Journal article and I am being represented by CJ Griffin of Hackensack.
I maintain a blog called NJ Civil Settlements which, as its name implies, reports on settlements of lawsuits against government agencies and officials. Learning whether, when and how these lawsuits have concluded is sometimes difficult, especially since many of the settlement agreements contain confidentiality clauses that prevent the parties from revealing the amount of settlement or even the existence of a settlement agreement.
A lawsuit filed today in Mercer County Superior Court seeks the identities and other information regarding officers from the State Police and Mercer Sheriff's Department who fired fifteen shots at Radazz Hearns, now 15, on August 7, 2015. Seven of the shots struck Hearns, causing him to be hospitalized for a week. Despite public outcry and controversy over whether Hearns actually possessed a gun at the time he was shot, law enforcement officials have refused to identify the police officers who fired the shots.
On October 15, 2015, both Isaac Isaac Avilucea of the Trentonian and Keith Brown of NJ Advance Media published articles claiming that their investigations found that Doug Muraglia and James Udijohn were the officers who shot Hearns. When asked to confirm the information in Brown's article, Deputy Attorney General Ryan C. Atkinson refused to do so and claimed that any lawsuit filed to obtain the officers' names would be frivolous.
The lawsuit is captioned John Paff v. Office of the Attorney General, et al., was filed by C.J. Griffin of Hackensack-based law firm Pashman Stein.
At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 14, 2015, Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson will hear argument in Paff v. Department of Law and Public Safety, et al., Docket No. MER-L-1685-15. This Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and common law right of access case was filed on my behalf by Walter M. Luers of Clinton.
The lawsuit challenges the New Jersey State Police decision to suppress the identity of a State Trooper who resigned or was fired for offering to not execute an arrest warrant in exchange for the warrant's target having sex with him. The case also seeks the Trooper's resignation letter and a plea agreement that resolved internal charges against the Trooper. No criminal charges were filed against the Trooper.
The matter will be heard on the 4th floor of the Mercer County Courthouse, 400 S. Warren St, Trenton. Members of media and public are encouraged to attend and observe but are advised to call the court at 609-571-4499 the day prior to confirm that the hearing date and hour have not changed.
During its July 27, 2015 public meeting, the Gloucester Township (Camden County) Council voted to end the public comment portion of the meeting for the stated reasons of one speaker's comments not having "something to do with government" and for not being sufficiently "respectful to others."
The video of the meeting shows that resident Tom Crone, a Republican, began addressing the Democratic-controlled Council at 28:15 on the video. At about 41:40 Crone began speaking as spokesman for the Gloucester Township and Camden County Republican parties about "an unwholesome and unsavory incident . . . that involved" officials from Council Vice President Orlando Mercado's and his running mates' reelection campaign.
On October 27, 2014, I blogged about the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police ("NJSACOP") entering as an amicus curiae or "friend of the court" into Galloway Township's appeal of a trial court's ruling that I am entitled to logs showing the sender, recipient, date and subject line of each e-mail sent by a specific government employee during a specified period of time.
Recently, four other organizations have also sought to participate in the case: the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The League and Institute filed a joint brief which is on-line here and the ACLU's and Foundation's joint brief is on-line here.
In late 2014, I blogged about my common law right of access lawsuit that compelled the Township of Hainesport (Burlington County) to release a list of all public officials, employees and retirees who were receiving health insurance that was subsidized by Hainesport taxpayers. While nothing illegal was discovered, the list did confirm that Hainesport taxpayers were paying about $27,000 toward health coverage for each of four elected Township Committee members who selected the "family plan." (The fifth member of the Committee, William M. Boettcher, selected the "married plan" reducing the taxpayers' burden in 2014 to approximately $21,000.)
Former school principal interviewed by prosecutor about his "involvement with a minor" is receiving $7,800 gross monthly pension benefits
On February 2, 2015, I blogged here about my Open Public Records Act (OPRA) lawsuit that seeks an investigative report and video regarding an Atlantic County elementary school principal who unexpectedly resigned a few days after being interviewed by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office about his "involvement with a minor." To date, no charges have been filed against the principal, John Gibson. Gibson was formerly employed by the Galloway Township school district.
Today, I received a report (on-line here) from the New Jersey Division of Pensions showing that Gibson has been receiving monthly net pension checks of an undisclosed amount since May 1, 2014. Before deductions, however, the gross monthly pension amount is $7,834.50
Patricia Parkin McNamara
Local Finance Board
101 S Broad St – PO Box 803
Trenton, NJ 08625-0803
Dear Ms. McNamara:
I intend this e-mail to be my complaint against Robert Maybury who, at all times relevant to the activities alleged below, served as a member of the Westampton Township Committee in Burlington County. In accordance with N.J.A.C. 5:35-1.1(b), following are the required elements of the complaint:
1. State the point of the Local Government Ethics Law (LGEL) alleged to be violated.
N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.5(d) which states:
Lawsuit seeks details on school principal who unexpectedly resigned after being interviewed by prosecutor
Clinton attorney Walter M. Luers recently filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) lawsuit on my behalf for a county prosecutor's records regarding an investigation involving a former Atlantic County school principal who unexpectedly took a paid leave of absence on January 30, 2014 and resigned on March 31, 2014.
Lawsuit seeks nature of “suspicious incident” that resulted in Bound Brook High School teacher's firing
On March 11, 2015 at 9 a.m., Somerset County Superior Court Assignment Judge Yolanda Ciccone will hear argument in my newly filed lawsuit against the Borough of Bound Brook (Paff v. Borough of Bound Brook, Docket No. SOM-L-72-15). The main issue in my lawsuit, which was filed by Montclair attorney Richard M. Gutman, is whether Bound Brook Borough violated my rights under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access by redacting the "narrative description" from a police report of an October 29, 2014 incident involving a 24-year-old teacher (identified as the "Suspect") and an unidentified juvenile (identified as the "Victim").
On August 1, 2014, the New Jersey Libertarian Party (NJLP) formally petitioned the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for a rule requiring municipalities and other local government units to specify an "up to" dollar amount in each resolution that awards a public contract. At its December 10, 2014 meeting, the DCA's Local Finance Board preliminarily approved the requested rule and will consider final adoption after a 60-day public comment period.
The NJLP submitted its rulemaking petition in response the Parsippany-Troy Hills governing body's award of a no-bid financial consulting contract to a company that was reportedly owned by or tied to the township's recently-resigned Chief Financial Officer. The resolution that awarded the contract and other related paperwork said only that the amount of the contract "will exceed $17,500." When a local newspaper requested records showing the exact contract amount, Parsippany-Troy Hills responded that the contract "hasn't been signed by the Administration [and that] could take up to 30 days."
Back in March, I filed a lawsuit against Hainesport Township (Burlington County) seeking a list of all public officials, employees and retirees who have been enrolled in the Township's health insurance plan during 2011 to 2014. For background on that suit, which I won, please see my blog here.
Haineport originally said that it would appeal the lower court's decision that forced it to make the information public. Recently, however, Hainesport withdrew its appeal plans. On December 19, 2014, Township Clerk Leo F. Selb, Jr. released an Excel spreadsheet which I've placed on-line here. (Note that there are tabs at the bottom of the file that show the enrollees during each year.)