Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Appellate Court: Volunteer Fire Company is subject to OPRA.

Update: On June 6, 2016, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to review whether Millstone Valley Fire Department an “instrumentality” of the Franklin Fire District No.1 and thus a “public agency” subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA)

In a March 15, 2016, unpublished opinion, a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court agreed that a volunteer fire company under the jurisdiction of a fire district is a government agency and thus subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).  The Appellate Division, however, declined to decide whether or not records related to the fire company's social functions--as distinguished from its government functions--should be excluded from OPRA's scope.

The decision affirmed an April 29, 2014, ruling by the Government Records Council in Robert A. Verry v. Franklin Fire District No. 1 (Somerset), GRC Case No. 2013-196 that Millstone Valley Fire Department, which is located in Franklin Township (Somerset County) "is a member of the Franklin Fire District No. 1 per N.J.S.A. 40A:14-70.1 and thus serves a governmental function under the supervision and control of the Franklin Fire District No. 1 [and] it is a public agency for purposes of OPRA."

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