Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lawsuit seeks identities of Hainesport officials on the Township's health insurance plan.

On March 11, 2014, Walter Luers, Esq. filed a lawsuit on my behalf against the Township of Hainesport in Burlington County.  The matter is captioned John Paff v. Hainesport Township and Leo F. Selb, Jr., Docket No. BUR-L-570-14 and is on-line here.  At issue is whether the Township must publicly disclose the names of all public employees and retirees who are enrolled in the Township's health insurance plan. Luers' May 21, 2014 brief in support of a motion for summary judgment is on-line here.

I had previously asked for this information from Hainesport in 2013 and received a five-page denial from Township Attorney Theodore M. Costa, Esq.  After Monmouth County Superior Court Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson's January 7, 2014 decision in Brewer v. Township of Middletown held that identities of such enrollees are disclosable under the common law right of access, I resubmitted my request to Hainesport.  In my January 11, 2014 records request, I directed Hainesport's attention to the Brewer decision and asked that Hainesport be guided by Judge Lawson's reasoning even though the decision was not binding precedent.  In his January 27, 2014 letter of denial, Township Administrator Leo F. Selb, Jr. said that Judge Lawson's decision "is not persuasive" but was "a mere unpublished Law Division case, decided in another County, which means it has no precedential value." 

Thus, I am suing Hainesport hoping that Burlington County Assignment Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder, who has been assigned the case, will adopt Judge Lawson's reasoning.  A success in this case will make it easier for residents of other Burlington County towns to learn the identities of the officials, employees and retirees who are receiving publicly funded health insurance coverage.

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