Court finds that Summit Housing Authority violated OPRA

UPDATE (8/22/2015) – See bottom of this post for the list of case documents to date.

Press Release
July 16, 2015
For immediate release

CONTACT:
New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG)
http://njfog.org/contact/

Union County Superior Court Judge James Hely issued an opinion on Monday, July 13 that the Summit Housing Authority failed to properly reply to an Open Public Records Act request for minutes of the non-public (executive or closed session) meetings of its Board of Commissioners.

The ruling followed oral argument on July 10.  The court date was announced along with details of the case in a press release issued by NJFOG just last week.

The Judge opined that the request for the last three sets of closed session minutes was unambiguous and found fault with the Authority’s attempt to narrow the search window to only the tenure of its current Executive Director / Custodian of Records.  The request included no such limitation, nor does the law authorize that interpretation, the court ruled.

Per its own admission, the agency hasn’t kept minutes for closed session meetings held since its current Executive Director, Joseph M. Billy, Jr., began on April 1, 2013.  The agency didn’t contest that minutes exist for closed sessions held in earlier years but failed to provide copies of those minutes in its response to the OPRA request.

Decision is still pending with regard to Open Public Meetings Act violations, which include the agency’s failure to keep minutes for its non-public meetings.

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Here are all the case documents so far with the most recent listed first (as of 8/22/2015):

NJFOG v. Summit Housing Authority – NJFOG reply brief (OPMA)

NJFOG v. Summit Housing Authority – Summit HA letter in follow-up to opposition brief (OPMA)

NJFOG v. Summit Housing Authority – Summit HA opposition brief to motion for summary judgment (OPMA)

NJFOG v. Summit Housing Authority – NJFOG Motion for Summary Judgment (OPMA)

NJFOG v. Summit Housing Authority – OPINION OF JUDGE HELY 7.13.15 (OPRA)

NJFOG v. Summit Housing Authority – NJFOG Response (OPRA)

NJFOG v. Summit Housing Authority – Summit HA Answer (OPRA)

NJFOG v. Summit Housing Authority FILED VERIFIED COMPLAINT (OPRA & OPMA)

NJFOG is the only non-profit organization in the state dedicated solely to improving New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and working to educate the public about these laws and increase governmental compliance.

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