Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Judge to consider OPRA fines against South Bound Brook Borough Clerk.

Yolanda Ciccone, A.J.S.C.
On August 6, 2015, Somerset County Assignment Judge Yolanda Ciccone will consider whether South Bound Brook Borough (Somerset County) Clerk Donald E. Kazar should be fined $2,500 for knowingly, willfully and unreasonably denying several requests filed pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

In his lawsuit, former Borough Police Chief Robert A. Verry alleged that Kazar improperly responded to four OPRA requests seeking e-mails between and among Borough officials.  Kazar denied the first request based on it being too broad and not specific enough to satisfy OPRA's requirements.  Verry refused Kazar's requests to extend the time for him to respond to the latter three requests. Verry said that he refused because Kazar engages "in a pattern and practice of requesting significant extensions of time to respond to [Verry's] OPRA requests for e-mails and correspondences only to then ultimately deny the request because he erroneously maintains they are overbroad and invalid."  In response to Verry's refusals, Kazar wrote "Then I guess u will be filing a complaint."

Verry's lawsuit, brought by CJ Griffin of Hackensack, alleges that Kazar knew that Verry's requests were valid because the Government Records Council (GRC) had previously and repeatedly upheld the validity of "similarly worded requests" filed by Verry but denied by Kazar.  The lawsuit also asserts that Kazar had previously been fined $1,000 in May 2007 for knowingly and willfully violating OPRA and that the Office of Administrative Law is presently considering fining him in another case.  In addition to fining Kazar, Verry's present lawsuit seeks access to the denied records and payment of Verry's attorneys fees and costs.

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