Thursday, April 30, 2015

OPRA case sealed by court.

On April 15, 2015, I visited the Superior Court's Civil Division at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick.  As is my practice, I reviewed a listing of recently filed cases and came across an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) lawsuit bearing Docket No. MID-L-1217-15.  My written notes indicate that the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office was the plaintiff in the suit, which is unusual because government agencies typically are OPRA defendants, not plaintiffs.  Intrigued, I asked for a copy of the case file but was told that it was not immediately available because it was in Assignment Judge Travis Francis' office.

When I checked the court's on-line case searching system, a page appeared (click here) advising that the case is "sealed."  I have never seen an OPRA case file sealed. (For those who didn't know that you could search Superior Court cases on-line, an explanation is provided here.)

I have submitted an OPRA request to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office for all contents of the sealed case's file.  I will post the results when available.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Since 2012, Millburn school board paid up to $800K to settle federal IDEA claims.

The Millburn Board of Education (Essex County) has released, in response to my Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, redacted versions of several settlements of administrative cases brought by students and their parents under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  I am not sure that the list is complete.  Most of these settlement agreements, which are on-line here, contain confidentiality agreements that prevents parents from disclosing the settlement amounts.

Docket: EDS-18665-2013N
Date: May 8, 2014
Amount: $5,000

Docket: EDS-12594-2014N
Date: December 4, 2014
Amount: $139,000

Docket: None
Date: Undated
Amount: "Tuition cost" of an undisclosed amount.

Docket: EDS-17524-2013N
Date: April 16, 2014
Amount: $200,000, less parents' insurer's contribution

Docket: EDS-10065-2013N
Date: August 16, 2014
Amount: $102,500

Docket: EDS-11884-2014N
Date: December 15, 2014
Amount: none

Docket: EDS-09885/6-2014N
Date: September 16, 2014
Amount: none

Docket: 2014-20160 (OAL)
Date: October 28, 2013
Amount: $90,000, less parents' insurer's contribution

Docket: 2012-17930 (OAL)
Date: July 16, 2013
Amount: $359,499.99

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Stafford claims OPRA suit is "frivolous" and brought in "bad faith" to "harass the Township."

In an earlier post, I wrote about my lawsuit against Stafford Township (Ocean County) seeking records pertaining to alleged "unlawful acts" by a Stafford officer which were allegedly not acted upon by the police chief.  Township Attorney Christopher J. Dasti issued a blanket denial of my request without identifying any of the records to which access was being denied.  I had informed Dasti that Judge Grasso had previously ruled that certain records in an internal affairs file, such as those created before the commencement of an internal affairs investigation, are not exempt.  Still, Dasti wouldn't offer more than a vague, blanket denial.

After my lawsuit was served upon Stafford, Dasti sent my lawyer, CJ Griffin, a letter demanding that I withdraw my suit.  In his letter, Dasti claimed that the lawsuit "is nothing more than an attempt by [Paff] to harass the Township by forcing it to incur unnecessary legal fees and costs."  He continued that "[a]s a result of [Paff's] bad faith" the Township will seek a court order requiring me and Griffin to pay the Township's attorneys fees and costs.

In her response, Griffin advised Dasti that I will not be withdrawing my lawsuit and he could hasten the resolution of this suit by providing a candid, informative response to my records request. She told Dasti that his "continued refusal to acknowledge whether responsive records even exist, along with a blanket assertion that if any such records exist they would be confidential, simply will not suffice."  Both Dasti's letter and Griffin's response are on-line here.