Saturday, June 27, 2009

Favorable settlement in OPMA/OPRA case against Howell Township

In August 2008, I filed a five count pro se lawsuit against Howell Township in Monmouth County. On June 27, 2009, I received in the mail a signed Consent Judgment that resolved the first three counts of the complaint. The other two counts are still pending.

My Amended Complaint and the Settlement Agreement are on-line here.

Also, I've posted the May 6, 2008, May 20, 2008 and July 15, 2008 Howell Township Council's executive session minutes, in both redacted and unredacted form, here.

Following is a summary:

FIRST COUNT

I complained that the Township Council's closed session resolutions were too vaguely worded. For example, the June 10, 2008 resolution stated that the Council was going to privately discuss "Litigation, Personnel, Attorney Client Privilege." In the Consent Order, the Township, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed, going forward, to "set forth [within its executive resolutions] as much information about the topic(s) to be privately discussed that can be disclosed without undermining the N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(b) exception that authorized the topic(s) to be discussed in private."

SECOND COUNT

I complained that the Council, during its May 20, 2008 executive session, discussed an issue that ought to have been discussed in public--the formation of a COAH Advisory Board. In the Consent Order, the Township, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed, going forward "to carefully separate those issues that are eligible for nonpublic discussion in accordance with N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(b) from those that are not, and that in making this separation, the Council shall strictly construe the N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(b) exceptions against closure and in favor of openness in accordance with the decisions of the Superior Court regarding this issue."

THIRD COUNT

I complained that the Clerk, when explaining why certain matters were redacted, didn't explain the redactions in enough detail to make is possible for me to determine whether or not the redactions were properly applied. For example, the Clerk might explain why a large block of text was redacted by simply stating "Attorney Client Privilege." In the Consent Order, the Clerk, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed, going forward, "to provide a requestor of government records that are exempted and or redacted, in whole or in part, with a exemption/redaction index that provides: a) the legal basis for each suppression or redaction together with b) additional information to enable the requestor to understand the nature of the suppressed or redacted material and why it was redacted."

John Paff
Somerset, New Jersey

No comments:

Post a Comment