Thursday, July 29, 2010

OPRA hearing on August 6th in Jersey City

On Friday, August 6, 2010 at 1:30 p.m., Hudson County Superior Court Judge Bernadette DeCastro will hear argument in the Open Public Records Act and common law case of Bruce D. Kowal v. City of Bayonne, et al, Docket No. HUD-L-3505-10. The lawsuit is on-line here.

At issue in the case is whether Kowal, who is representing himself in the suit, is entitled to see an unredacted, or at least a more narrowly redacted, version of an Incident Report issued by the Bayonne Police Department regarding a Bayonne City Councilman found unconscious in his car by police in August 2008. The redacted incident report is at pages 59 and 60 of the PDF file at the above link.

According to a September 4, 2008 Star Ledger article ("Ted Connolly blames blood pressure for passing out in his car." by Jason Fink), Councilman Connolly claimed that after he had three glasses of wine at a friend's house, he began to feel dizzy as was driving home and pulled his car to the curb. He said that he telephoned his friend on his cell and told him he was sick. He claims, however, passed out before he could complete the conversation. The friend, alarmed, called police in both New York City and Bayonne and Bayonne Police ultimately found Connolly unconscious in his car. According to the article, Connolly said that the police did not give him a Breathalyzer or take blood to determine whether he was intoxicated. He blamed his unconsciousness on low blood pressure.

Kowal claims that the matter redacted from the report might provide more information on questions such as whether Mr. Connolly appeared to be intoxicated, whether he answered questions about the amount of alcohol he consumed and whether police had his car towed away from the scene. Kowal wants this information so that he can determine whether police afforded Connolly special treatment because he was a Council member.

The August 6, 2010 hearing is open to the public. Those who wish to attend are encouraged to call Judge DeCastro's chambers at 201-795-6880 the morning of the hearing to ensure that it has not been cancelled or postponed.

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