Friday, March 6, 2009

Appellate Division examines OPRA's "personnel" exemption

Employees of the Bergen County Prosecutor's office (BCPO) must seek permission before they can work for another employer. The BCPO manual states that an employee's "outside activity or employment must not . . . give any improper appearance of conflict of interest."

A newspaper requested records of BCPO employees' outside employment activities presumably so that it and the public could judge whether any conflicts of interest arose out of such employment. The request was denied, the newspaper sued and then appealed after losing in the trial court.

In a March 3, 2009 published decision, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division ruled that the government's need to protect the safety and security of BCPO employees trumped the public's right, under OPRA and the common law, to access even redacted records related to those employees' outside employment. The case is available by clicking here.

John Paff
Somerset, New Jersey

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