Case Name: Salberg et. al. v. Township of Rockaway et. al.
Docket Number: MRS-C-100-18 / A-000588-18
County / Vicinage: Morris / Vicinage 10 (Morris/Sussex)
Filing Date: September 20, 2018
Trial Court Judge: Stuart A. Minkowitz, A.J.S.C.
Appellate Judges: Joseph L. Yannotti, P.J.A.D. & Robert J. Gilson, J.A.D
Action was filed in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court on four counts. The first count was an Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) claim and was filed by Lisa Salberg and 19 other pro-se plaintiffs. The Open Public Meetings Act issue was whether the governing body (Township Council) of Rockaway Township provided proper 48 hours notice of a September 14, 2018 10:30 p.m. Special Meeting, in compliance with N.J.S.A. 10:4-8(d).
The Township scheduled the meeting on September 12, 2018 and did not provide notice of the meeting until a little after 10:00 p.m. Plaintiffs in the case argued that under case law, public bodies have to give 48 hours notice of meetings to two newspapers who have the ability to publish the notice 48 hours in advance. (See Worts v. Mayor and Council of Upper Twp., 176 N.J. Super. 78 (Ch. 1980) Lakewood Citizens of Integrity in Gov’t Inc. v. Lakewood Twp. Comm. 306 N.J. Super. 500 (Law Division 1997). It was noted by Plaintiffs that Worts has been cited by the Appellate Division with apparent approval in Township of Bernards v. State, Dept. of Community Affiars, 223 N.J. Super. 1, 26, 558 A.2d 1 (App. Div. 1989).
In a detailed oral ruling from the bench, Judge Minkowitz agreed with the holding of Worts and Lakewood. In doing so, he found the Township violated the OPMA.
Even though a violation of the OPMA may occur, not all actions are voidable. The Supreme Court has given discretion to judges as to whether actions of the governing are voided. Even if a governing body did not act in bad faith when violating the OPMA, courts still have the discretion to void actions of a public body. (See Polillo v. Deane 74 N.J. 562 (1977). In Salberg, Judge Minkowitz voided the actions of the meeting where the Township Council appointed an Interim Mayor, new Township Attorney and made numerous other appointments.
Following the Court Order, the decision of Minkowitz was appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. The appeal, in part argued that court misapplied the statute and that the trial court’s reliance on Worts was incorrect and that both the trial court and Worts incorrectly added additional requirements to the OPMA. In writing for the Appellate Court, Judge Yannotti wrote, “[w]e have considered the arguments raised……on appeal and conclude that they are without merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion.  We affirm substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Minkowitz in his thorough and well-reasoned oral decision.” (Page 4 of Appellate Court Order).
Complaint, Brief, sample Order to Show Cause (unsigned), and sample Order (unsigned)
Township’s Response Brief
Township’s Response Exhibits
OPMA Reply Brief by Plaintiffs (Unsigned)
OPMA Reply Exhibits by Plaintiffs
Transcript of Oral Argument and Oral Opinion of Judge Minkowtiz, A.J.S.C.
Appellate Court Appeal
Appellate Court Reply
Appellate Court Order