Thursday, January 29, 2009

$1,000 Knowing and Willful OPRA fine levied

On January 12, 2009, the Asbury Park Press ran a story (see below) about a former Oceanport councilman being fined $1,000 for a knowing and willful violation of the Open Public Records Act.

I have obtained the Judge's written decision and have put it on-line here.

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Former councilman fined $1,000 for violating public-records law

By Carol Gorga Williams • COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU • January 12, 2009

OCEANPORT — A state administrative law judge has fined a former borough councilman $1,000 for failing to provide public records to Borough Clerk Kimberly Jungfer so she could provide them to people seeking the information.

"I find that Councilman Hugh Sharkey has knowingly and willfully violated (the state's Open Public Records Act) and unreasonably denied access under the totality of circumstances,'' wrote Judge Joseph F. Martone in a case dating back to 2006 that he ruled on last month.

The judge continued that there is sufficient evidence to conclude "that the conduct and actions of Councilman Hugh Sharkey were intentional and deliberate, with knowledge of their wrongfulness and not merely negligent.''

Martone sent his decision to the state's Government Records Council Dec. 17. The council may adopt, modify or reject Martone's decision. If, after 45 days, the council does not take any action to alter Martone's findings, they would become final.

Sharkey, who lost the Republican Party's backing for re-election in 2007, had appeared before Martone and the state's Government Records Council considering a complaint lodged in 2006 by former borough resident Allan M. Johnson, husband of former Councilwoman Linda Johnson.

Originally distributed on January 13, 2009

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