Monday, September 30, 2013

Unpublished trial court OPRA opinion

"Unpublished opinions" are not published in the law books and are not ordinarily written about in legal periodicals. Unless somebody puts them on-line and calls attention to them, they are likely not to be located by people who may want to search for them. I think that it's important that court opinions, even if they are not precedential, are easily accessible for future use.

Ganzweig v. Township of Lakewood
Ocean County, Docket No. OCN-L-2392-13
Hon. Vincent J. Grasso, A.J.S.C.
September 27, 2013
Click here for the opinion.

Summary:  Records that later form the basis of a police internal affairs investigation do not become retroactively exempt from OPRA's disclosure requirement, declining to follow Blaustein v. Lakewood Police Department, Government Records Council Complaint No. 2011-102 (June 26, 2012)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cape May County Volunteer Fire Department President and Fire Board Commissioner appeals from conflict of interest finding.

On June 26, 2013, Robert Zimmerman, President of the Rio Grande Volunteer Fire Department in Cape May County as well as an elected Fire Commissioner, appealed from a "Notice of Violation" issued to him on May 23, 2013 by the New Jersey Local Finance Board (LFB).  The LFB issued the Notice of Violation after finding that Zimmerman violated the Local Government Ethics Law

The LFB cited Zimmerman for "simultaneously serving as Commissioner of Fire District #2 and President of the Rio Grande Fire Company in the same fire district" which the LFB held was "an incompatibility of office" that "might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment."  In its decision, the Board determined not to fine Zimmerman for this violation as long as he resigned one office or the other within 30 days.

In his appeal, Zimmerman said only that he feels that his situation is "unique due to the fact that I am only one vote on a Board of 5 members to decide what gets done and what does not get done, and also that our money is not commingled."

The matter, which has been transferred to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested case, is on-line here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Unpublished trial court OPRA opinion

"Unpublished opinions" are not published in the law books and are not ordinarily written about in legal periodicals. Unless somebody puts them on-line and calls attention to them, they are likely not to be located by people who may want to search for them. I think that it's important that court opinions, even if they are not precedential, are easily accessible for future use.

Burke v. Borough of Mantoloking
Ocean County, Docket No. OCN-L-1642-13
Hon. Vincent J. Grasso, A.J.S.C.
September 17, 2013
Click here for the opinion.

An OPRA request worded as follows is sufficiently specific to require fulfillment.  "Correspondence and communications between officials or employees of Mantoloking and officials or employees of the State of New Jersey between October 28, 2012 and the present regarding closing and opening roads in the Borough of Mantoloking."

Monday, September 9, 2013

45-day statute of limitations on GRC actions sought.

In an August 29, 2013 letter to the New Jersey Government Records Council (GRC), Dominic P. DiYanni of Seaside Heights, attorney for Franklin Township Fire District No. 1 Board of Fire Commissioners (Somerset County), is requesting the GRC to grant of stay of Interim Orders in ten (10) denial of access cases.  DiYanni is seeking the stay so that the GRC can rule, one way or the other, on whether Open Public Records Act (OPRA) denial of access complaints brought in the GRC are subject to the same 45-day statute of limitations as similar actions brought in Superior Court.  DiYanni suggests that if the GRC holds that the 45-day limitations does not apply, he will appeal that determination to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

DiYanni argues that it is illogical to have a 45-day limitations period for the Superior Court while no limitations period applies to actions brought before the GRC. "[R]equestors should not be able to circumvent the 45 day statute of limitations in filing in one of the two venues provided for under the Open Public Records Act by simply waiting as long as they wish to file their matter with the Government Records Council," DiYanni wrote.

DiYanni's letter is on-line here.  The records requestor in the case is Jeff Carter who is represented by John A. Bermingham, Jr. of Camden. 

(Disclosure:  The author, John Paff, serves as a volunteer firefighter in Fire District No. 1 and receives financial compensation from the Fire District in the form of clothing allowances, fire fighting training mileage and meal reimbursements and other amenities.)