Municipality Delays Release Of Document Due To Limitation On Disclosure

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Published: August 18, 2016 @ 4:00 PM EDT

In June of this year, Roselle Park News reached an agreement with the Borough of Roselle Park to dismiss a case brought about by the newspaper to have the municipality release a document requested by the newspaper through an OPRA request. After more than a month, the finalization of the agreement is being held up because the municipality’s attorneys have proposed non-disclosure clauses, which would be counterproductive to the purpose of having such documents available for the benefit of the public. Such non-disclosure or non-disparagement clauses would also infringe upon the freedom of the press and restrict the newspaper from reporting on the document itself.

Roselle Park News submitted an Open Public Records Act request – also known as an OPRA request – in February of this year simply requesting a copy of the resolution regarding the appointment of a Municipal Prosecutor for 2016 (link to article). This resolution was moved by First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola at the February 4, 2016 Mayor & Council meeting. Councilman Meola read from the prepared resolution that was seen being given to him by the Borough Clerk before the meeting. After discussion on the dais, the motion was withdrawn by the councilman.

The official response from the Borough Clerk to the newspaper’s OPRA request, was the following:

In response to your request for “A copy of the resolution regarding the appointment of a Municipal Prosecutor motioned on at the Thursday, February 4, 2016 Mayor & Council Regular meeting,” no such document exists.

This response was given a second time when the newspaper stated that it would be incumbent upon the Borough Clerk to provide the document which was known to exist. The record was prepared by the Borough Clerk in the ordinary course of business of the municipality. The Borough Clerk also routinely provides such draft resolutions with the agendas of municipal meetings published online.

Currently, the only remaining issue between the newspaper and the municipality is whether we will agree to any limitations on discussing the settlement or the lawsuit in the future.

To date, six months after being asked if a municipal prosecutor would be formally appointed since the current prosecutor is a holdover from 2015, the governing body has yet to appoint a municipal prosecutor and has cost taxpayers $15,000 more than in previous years without explanation since there is a bid from the Borough Attorney to perform the duties of a Municipal Prosecutor for no fee.