Friday, April 18, 2014

Municipal Clerk in Hunterdon County agrees to pay $1,000 OPRA penalty.

On April 2, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Susan M. Scarola recommended acceptance of a settlement of an Open Public Record Act (OPRA) case filed with the Government Records Council.  Judge Scarola's recommendation and the Settlement Agreement in the case of George F. Burdick, Jr. v. Township of Franklin (Hunterdon County) are on-line here.

According to the agreement, Franklin Township Clerk Ursula Stryker agreed to "personally pay a fine of $1,000 to the Government Records Council" within 60 days of Scarola's order.  The agreement recites that the Township acknowledged that it was able to comply with an Interim Order of the GRC, but attributed its failure to do so to "the intentional acts of at least one of its professionals which directly affected [Stryker's] ability to comply with the Interim Order."  The agreement also recites that the Township "has already made adjustments to its Open Public Records protocol to ensure continual compliance with the GRC's ruling" and that the Township "wishes to resolve this matter without having to expend additional counsel fees for one or more days of hearings."

The agreement resolved a case that started with Burdick's November 19, 2009 OPRA request for invoices that a private investigator submitted to an attorney that had been retained by the Township in connection with police disciplinary matter.

The professional who allegedly acted intentionally to frustrate Stryker's ability to comply with  the GRC's interim order was apparently attorney John J. O'Reilly.  In an April 12, 2012 letter to the GRC (on-line here), Katrina L. Campbell, legal counsel to Franklin Township, said that, despite her best efforts, she could not convince O'Reilly to authorize release of the investigator's invoices.  She suggested that the GRC "issue a subpoena to [O'Reilly] or the investigator to obtain the records."

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