The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) filed suit in Trenton today in New Jersey Superior Court against the Trenton Board of Education and its custodian of records alleging violations of the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).
The suit follows a July 5, 2014 letter sent by NJFOG to the Board of Education about the Board’s non-compliance with OPMA, including its discussion of improper topics during closed session meetings, its recording of insufficiently detailed closed session meeting minutes and its use of closed session meeting resolutions that are too vague.
In November, NJFOG submitted an OPRA request to the Board. The suit alleges that the Board of Education violated OPRA by not providing reasons for redactions made to the requested documents, making sloppily blanked-out omissions to documents and withholding the names of Board Members who are negotiating with various unions.
NJFOG claims that the Board of Education continues to violate OPMA by not specifying the reasons for holding closed sessions. The documents, which were filed today, including the resolutions of September 8, 2014, October 14, 2014 and October 27, 2014 closed meetings of the board, used cryptic language, such as “concerning personnel matters, negotiations and legal matter.” The board gave no reason for a closed session held at 8:30 in the morning on Saturday November 22, 2014.
The suit also alleges that the Trenton Board of Education failed to keep reasonably comprehensible meeting minutes and discussed topics in closed session that are not permitted by OPMA.
NJFOG is a state-wide organization that advocates for transparency in government and educates citizens and public officials about compliance with the law.
The Trenton Board of Education employs nearly 900 employees and operates 22 schools. It has been under the control of a state monitor appointed by the New Jersey Department of Education for twelve years.