Thursday, August 14, 2014

New OPRA lawsuit: Chatham Township keeps police officer's claim and two settlement agreements secret.

At its September 12, 2013 meeting, the Chatham Township (Morris County) Committee passed Resolutions 2013-181 and 2013-182 which, respectively, a) authorized settling a claim filed by former Chatham police sergeant Michael Giannone and b) authorized $100,000 of Township money to cover "the Township's share in this settlement."

Upon learning this, I filed an Open Public Record Act (OPRA) request for the settlement agreement between Giannone and the Township as well as the Notice of Tort Claim in which Giannone set forth the basis for his claim.  I asked for identical records regarding a claim filed in November 2013 by Chatham police officer Ed Gibney. 

Township Clerk Gregory J. LaConte partially fulfilled and mostly denied my request.  In his June 4, 2014 response, LaConte provided me with an unredacted version of Gibney's Tort Claim Notice and a heavily redacted version of Giannone's. 

Gibney's claim had as its basis his August 14, 2013 suspension from duty which he contended was "procedurally improper."  Giannone's claim was so heavily redacted that its basis could not be determined.

LaConte denied access to the Township's settlement agreements with both Giannone and Gibney claiming that they "are materials resulting from confidential personnel matters and not civil litigation."

Clinton attorney Walter M. Luers filed a lawsuit on my behalf, Paff v. Chatham Township, Docket No. MRS-L-1793-14.  The filing is on-line here.  The matter will be heard in Morristown before Thomas L. Weisenbeck, A.J.S.C. at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 25, 2014.

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