OPRA: Citizen wins open records fight Score one for the public.

Citizen wins open records fight
Score one for the public.

10/09/2006  Jersey Journal, Earl Morgan

Often, far too often, government officials from City Hall to the White House have impeded, delayed or even outright refused to release information to the public.

Recent court decisions have upheld the public's right to know, ordering government officials not only to release the information, but also to pay penalties for violating the state's Open Public Records Act.

Several months ago, Beth Mason filed suit in Superior Court, charging Hoboken with an OPRA violation for refusing to comply with her request for copies of any print advertisements the city bought in its campaign for open space.

Mason won, and the court ordered the city to turn over the documents and to pay her $10,500 in legal fees. Mason said it's one of several complaints she has filed against the city over OPRA.

In another case involving Hoboken, the city refused to comply with resident Helen Hirsch's request for access to a financial disclosure statement filed by Fire Chief John Cassesa.

The statement, which the public has a legal right to peruse, should include a list of the employee's sources of income as well as real estate holdings and businesses the employee either owns, operates or has an interest in.

According to the court complaint, Hoboken City Clerk James Farina blacked out portions of the statement.

irsch hired Montclair attorney Richard Gutman to handle her complaint; he said the court hasn't scheduled a hearing yet.

OPRA, which became law in July 2002, sets out, in detail, the items that must be provided immediately upon request - including budgets, bills, vouchers, contracts (including union agreements) and public employees' salaries and overtime.

(The information in the following paragraph is incorrect.  See Ed Mecka Comments for correct State Agency and information)
[Anyone wishing more information can contact the state Local Finance Board at (609) 292-7842, or check out the agency's Web site at http://www.nj.gov/dca/lgs.

End of Article************************

Ed Mecka Comments:
  The correct New Jersey State Agency that handles OPRA (Open Publice Records Act) issues is
To learn more about OPRA, checkout http://www.edmecka.com/activeKB/questions/15/

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