Every now and then open government work turns up something interesting.
A recent OPRA request sent to the Borough of Rockaway in Morris County for the minutes of closed session meetings of the borough council showed that at the December 11th council meeting Mayor Russell Greuter reported that he had “met with Judge [Gerard] Smith of the Joint Municipal Court of Dover and explained that the Borough is not making enough revenue to cover the cost of the court.” (Rockaway and neighboring municipalities have a joint court arrangement with the Town of Dover.) The paragraph following the mayor’s comment – which might shed light on any arrangement made with the judge – is redacted. Per the borough clerk, the reason for the redaction is that the passage relates to “anticipated litigation and ongoing contract negotiation”. You can find a copy of the minutes here, posted courtesy of John Paff, who also blogged about this story.
It’s surprising that information about the meeting was even included in the minutes – let alone not redacted – given the impropriety of a government official interfering, or appearing to interfere, with the independence of the court. It also raises the question of whether the mission of the court is to dole out justice or rake in cash. The mayor’s position appears to be that the court should be self-funded rather than supported, at least in part, by tax dollars. The result, however, may be a court where fairness and justice take a back seat to revenue generation. Now consider that the person in front of the judge is you.