Court rules Lakewood’s volunteer fire companies are subject to OPRA

On February 6, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Vincent Grasso ruled that four volunteer fire companies in Lakewood Township are subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).   The fire companies, which are part of the Lakewood Fire District – a separate taxing authority – are public agencies according to the court, which ruled that all non-privileged documents be provided to the plaintiff, who is also entitled to reimbursement of his attorneys’ fees and costs.

Although the fire district’s board of fire commissioners adopted a resolution in June 2014 establishing that all fire companies in the district are required to comply with OPRA and OPMA laws, in November 2014 the fire companies submitted court documents claiming that they are not government agencies or instrumentalities.    

The ruling established that the fire companies are subject to OPRA because they “…are performing a governmental function, which is firefighting.”  “The fire companies also failed to prove that the effort and expenses imposed on them to comply with OPRA requests would cause them to cease operations.”

Read the court opinion here:   

Stern v. Lakewood Volunteer Fire Department, et al.