Sunday, March 13, 2016

Appeal taken from GRC's ruling that settlement agreement was not disclosable even though settlement check had been written.

On March 10, 2016, a records requestor appealed a New Jersey Government Records Council ruling that his November 20, 2014 Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for a lawsuit settlement agreement was properly denied even though the municipal governing body had already approved the settlement and cut a check.

At issue in Harry Scheeler v. Galloway Township, GRC Complaint No. 2015-1 and 2015-22 is Scheeler's request for the settlement agreement that resolved former Galloway Township (Atlantic County) Manager Steve Bonanni's whistleblower and defamation lawsuit against the Township and Mayor Don Purdy.

The appellate filings show that even though the Township Council passed a resolution approving the settlement at its November 12, 2014 meeting and issued Bonanni a settlement check on that date, the settlement agreement was still an un-finalized draft because it had not yet been signed by the Mayor. But, Scheeler argued that the agreement only required Bonanni's signature and did not contain a signature block for the Mayor. The GRC also held that a settlement is truly finalized only after a Stipulation of Dismissal is filed in the court.

Scheeler, who represented himself before the GRC, is being represented in the appeal by CJ Griffin of Hackensack.


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