Open Government Advocacy Project

Shedding light on TrentonThe 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.

The Libertarian Party's Open Government Task Force's efforts to increase the Warren County Freeholder's Open Public Meetings Act compliance was reported in a June 16, 2008 Express Times article.

The OGFT's letters, referred to in the article, are available here.

Advocate goes after minutes
He claims Warren County freeholders are violating Open Public Meetings Act.
Monday, June 16, 2008
The Express-Times

WHITE TWP. - An open government advocate is challenging Warren county's policy of not releasing closed-door meeting minutes without freeholder board approval.

John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open
Government Advocacy Project, initially challenged the county for
being too vague when going into closed session. Instead of the board just saying it is discussing pending litigation, Paff advocates specifying the litigants' names.

Read the full article here.

Libertarian Attorney Walter Luers is doing some good work opening up  Interlaken Borough's local government (Monmouth County). As reported by the June 4, 2008 Asbury Park Press:

Luers cited three examples to prove that the council did indeed break the law. In January, Luers said that members of the council met at the home of Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown with Ocean Township Police Chief Antonio Amodio to discuss a possible contract with the township for police services.

Read the story here.

Advocate questions closed-door policies

John Paff concerned White Twp. Committee too vague. He also wants Web site created.

Monday, June 02, 2008
The Express-Times

WHITE TWP. | A state advocate for open government is raising questions about the township's closed-door session policies and its lack of a Web site.

John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project, is concerned the township committee is being too vague when it goes into closed-door sessions.

See the rest of the story HERE

Thanks to John, the Upper Freehold Board of Ed will be now be providing more detail as to the reasons it is going into executive session.

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!).

Today, on the NJLP's behalf, I asked the Union County Prosecutor's office to investigate Open Public Meetings Act violations committed by the Roselle Borough Mayor and Council. My letter to the Prosecutor starts at page 13 of the file that can be downloaded here.

This is a follow up to an earlier article posted HERE.

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. My case against Edison, originally scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, May 13, 2008, has been postponed to a date yet to be determined.

UPDATED: Read 5/9/2008 update to this article HERE.

Two Order to Show Cause hearings regarding the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) will be heard during the next few days.

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 government

Friday, 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.

You can read my letters to the Borough HERE and HERE.

Open-records activist targets Washington

Borough urged to give specific reasons for closed sessions.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The 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.