UPDATE (July 11, 2015): In early June of this year, Judge Oxley denied the defendant’s motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal. The defendant’s attorney subsequently filed a request for a probable cause hearing, which took place in Monmouth County Superior Court on June 25 before Judge Reisner. We are told there was some confusion at that proceeding. Apparently unaware of Judge Oxley’s ruling, Judge Reisner began by granting the defendant’s motion for leave to appeal, and the proceeding continued as an appeal rather than as a probable cause hearing. Argument was heard first from the defendant’s attorney then the prosecutor, who explained the error but did not object to the procedure. We do not have information about the outcome at this time.
UPDATE: In early June 2015, Judge Oxley denied the defendant’s motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal with the county court and sent the case back to the municipal court.
HEARING CANCELLED: A hearing initially scheduled for June 10 in Monmouth County Superior Court has been cancelled. Judge Oxley will be deciding the motion “on the papers.”
On April 8, 2015, Wall Township Municipal Court Judge Joseph Defino found that there was probable cause to charge Belmar Borough Municipal Clerk April Claudio with official misconduct and tampering with government records. He dismissed a third complaint of false swearing.
Former Belmar police officer Darian Vitello filed the criminal complaint against Ms. Claudio in December 2014 following Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests made on his behalf by his attorney, Robert Solomon.
The complaint states that Vitello had sought copies of “Request and Authorization for Records Disposal” forms filed by the Borough with the state, which must be formally notified of and approve destruction of all public records. Noteworthy is that the destruction requests themselves are public records.
The complaint alleges that the Clerk:
“… did commit the offense of official misconduct [and the offense of false swearing] on Feb. 10, 2014 by signing and certifying on two separate Request and Authorization for Records Disposal forms that the records requesting to be destroyed are “not involved in litigation” when in fact some of the documents, specifically time records files, contained information pertaining to contested facts in a litigation that was commenced against the Borough of Belmar on Nov. 4, 2013.”
“… did commit the offense of tampering with public records, specifically by failing to supply after consultation with the Borough of Belmar’s labor attorney, James Plosia, Esq., copies of two separate Request and Authorization for Records Disposal forms which were signed and filed by the defendant on Feb. 10, 2014 concerning “time records files,” following receipt of two separate OPRA requests, to wit, August 20, 2014 and October 20, 2014.”
“… attempted to conceal [the]…existence [of public records] in violation of her obligation as municipal clerk…and as the designated OPRA clerk of the Borough of Belmar.”
Ms. Claudio is being represented by attorney Edward Bertucio, Jr. A motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal of the municipal court’s finding of probable cause has been filed by Bertucio on behalf of Ms. Claudio.
A hearing that was initially scheduled on June 10 in Monmouth County Superior Court before Judge Joseph Oxley has been cancelled. That change is per discussion on May 21 with a staffer in the Judge’s chambers. The staff member said that the Judge will be deciding the case “on the papers” and that a decision could be issued prior to June 10.