Sunday, February 16, 2014

Burlington balks at disclosure of records regarding inmate's death.

Robert Taylor, a 74-year-old homeless man died while an inmate in the Burlington County Jail and I submitted a records request for "any police incident or other report that was issued after [Taylor] was found dead in his cell." 

This rather straightforward request was met by a multi-pronged denial by Joseph Threston, the County's Custodian of Records, which I've placed on-line here.

First, Threston stated that the "County is not in possession of any police report concerning Mr. Taylor's death."  We are apparently supposed to believe that a jail guard, after discovering a dead body in a jail cell, didn't write a report about it.

Next, Threston said that my request was "overly broad and unclear." 

Next, he said that even if a responsive report did exist, it would be exempt from disclosure on three separate legal grounds: a) pertaining to an investigation in progress, b) advisory, consultative and deliberative and c) violating Mr. Taylor's "reasonable expectation of privacy."

Finally, Threston "reserve[d] the right to raise any other ground or basis for denial that is not raised in this response."  In other words, if there are some other reasons for justifying nondisclosure that Threston won't think about until later, he can rely on those too.

My supplemental request is on-line here which, hopefully, will produce a more candid and meaningful response.

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