Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lawrence Twp. Council and Board of Ed. charged with OPMA & OPRA violations




For immediate release
October 5, 2016


Lawrence Township Board of Education and Municipal Council have both been taken to court for allegedly running afoul of the state's open public meetings and records laws.

Filed this September in Mercer County Superior Court as separate actions (docket numbers MER-L-1831-16 and MER-L-1832-16, respectively), the lawsuits are the latest two brought by the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) to improve governmental compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

The initial hearing in both cases is scheduled for November 29, 2016, at 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM, respectively, before Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Trenton. The hearings will address OPRA counts, with OPMA counts heard at a later date.

NJFOG began to file lawsuits against public agencies in 2014 for what the organization views as significant violations of the OPMA and OPRA laws. The two new cases follow NJFOG's successful OPMA/OPRA lawsuit against the Trenton Board of Education in Mercer County in 2015 and will be heard by the same judge who presided over the Trenton case.

"We are following up now by reviewing other Mercer County agencies in the wake of the Trenton School Board decision, which should have put other offices in the county on alert," said NJFOG president John Schmidt.

Both Lawrence Township entities were sent warning letters two years ago explaining the deficiencies, but NJFOG’s more recent review of their practices showed ongoing non-compliance with the OPMA and OPRA statutes.

"Ideally, public bodies would self-correct their own behavior when they learn that a neighboring town has been taken to court. That's the ripple effect we're looking for," added John Paff, NJFOG treasurer as well as chairman of the organization's Affirmative Litigation Committee.

NJFOG is represented by attorney Anthony H. Ogozalek, Jr. of Cinnaminson.

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The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) is the only non-profit organization in the state dedicated solely to improving public access to governmental records and meetings. We work to educate the public about the Open Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act as well as increase governmental compliance, transparency, and accountability.



6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why do you continue to post these examples of other school districts that have violated Sunshine laws? They have no relevance to our school district, you are supposed to be Middletown Mike, not Lawrence Township Mike. It's not happening here, so what is the point?

Michael Morris said...

The point is to show that school boards are not above the law and they too must follow the law.

It doesn't matter if you're from Lawrence Twsp or Middletown Twsp, all school boards must comply with OPMA & OPRA requirements at all times.

If it happens there, it could happen here.

Michael Morris said...

The point is to show that school boards are not above the law and they too must follow the law.

It doesn't matter if you're from Lawrence Twsp or Middletown Twsp, all school boards must comply with OPMA & OPRA requirements at all times.

If it happens there, it could happen here.

Anonymous said...

Mike, that is a specious argument and does not address the question. The question was why that particular violation by a BOE in a different town?
You could point to countless laws that a school district, police department, township committee or any other government entity might violate and post examples that occur elsewhere because it “could” happen here. That isn’t what you are doing, it isn’t happening here and there is no indication that it “could”. You are targeting our school district perhaps because of the disdain you have previously expressed towards our superintendent, accusing him of posting here anonymously and creating discord on the BOE in order to distract them from the poor job you think he is doing.
Mike, you know Jack about what is going on in the school district therefore you have negative opinions and criticisms based on your ignorance of the facts.
Why don’t you request a meeting with Dr. George and ask him to address some of the outlandish accusations you have posted here? I’m certain he would welcome the opportunity to educate someone like you who has insulted him from afar. Then you could post an informed opinion instead of being, to put it nicely, an ultracrepidarian.
Who knows? Maybe one day you can elevate the impression of this place from one of being a rumor mill to a place that contains actual journalism.

Michael Morris said...

Everyone, everywhere should be concerned about open and transparent government whether it involves the state or county government or a local governing body or board of ed.

If you feel I'm specifically targeting our school board than you're reading far to much into the post in your attempt to chastise me about what your perceived notions are of what I post to this blog.Some of what I post is for a broader audience than just Middletown.

Michael Morris said...

Everyone, everywhere should be concerned about open and transparent government whether it involves the state or county government or a local governing body or board of ed.

If you feel I'm specifically targeting our school board than you're reading far to much into the post in your attempt to chastise me about what your perceived notions are of what I post to this blog.Some of what I post is for a broader audience than just Middletown.