Case Name: Schmidt & Hollenbeck v. Rockaway Township
Docket Number: MRS-C-131-18
County / Vicinage: Morris / Vicinage 10 (Morris/Sussex)
Filing Date: December 7, 2018
Amended Complaint Filing Date: December 17, 2018
Judge: Stuart A. Minkowitz, A.J.S.C.
*The hearing date for this matter is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on February 19, 2019 in front of Judge Minkowitz. Directions to the Court can be found online: https://njcourts.gov/courts/directions/morris.html
Open Public Meetings Act complaint was filed in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court by pro-se Plaintiffs John P. Schmidt and Mary Hollenbeck. Both Schmidt and Hollenbeck were pro-se plaintiffs in the OPMA complaint filed in Salberg et. al. v. Township of Rockaway et. al. (Docket No. MRS-C-100-18). The complaint filed by Schmidt and Hollenbeck has four counts.
Background: The complaint alleges that following the September 14, 2018 Special Council Meeting that was voided and after the council was warned as to the OPMA’s requirements by Schmidt, the council held two additional Special Meetings in violation of the OPMA that did not meet the 48 hour notice requirement on September 20th and 26th 2018. In October, Schmidt made an OPRA request to audit the Township for compliance with OPMA and sent a letter of his concerns on October 22, 2018. In response to Schmidt’s letter, the council took remedial action of the Special Meetings on October 23, 2018, which the complaint alleges was also illegal.
Count I: Alleges Rockaway Township violated N.J.S.A. 10:4-8d, the same violation that was the subject of Salberg, by not properly noticing the September 20th and 26th meeting to two newspapers who could publish the notice 48 hours in advance of the meeting.
Count II: Alleges that the governing body of Rockaway Township held an illegal meeting on October 23, 2018. The meeting was part of the annual meeting schedule adopted in the beginning of the year, however it was only noticed and published in one newspaper. No other paper was sent the annual notice schedule of meetings. At the alleged illegal meeting on October 23, 2018 the Township among other things, voted to appoint a new Business Administrator.
Count III: Alleges that the governing body of Rockaway Township is in non-compliance with N.J.S.A. 10:4-13. The OPMA requires that before entering an executive / closed session that a public body has to adopt a resolution which should contain certain information. Schmidt and Hollenbeck allege that the resolutions passed by the council do not meet the statutory requirements. Despite receiving Schmidt’s letter and being given a model resolution that is compliant with the statute, they passed a non-complaint resolution on November 27, 2018.
Count IV: Alleges that the governing body is restricting public comment in violation of N.J.S.A. 10:4-12a and is acting in bad faith by holding the public comment portion of the meeting at the end of the meeting. The November 27, 2018 and December 11, 2018 meetings started at 7:30 p.m. The council then conducting business before going into closed session at 9:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. respectfully, and not holding public comment until the next day at 1:15 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.
Schmidt and Hollenbeck are asking the court for injunctive relief since the Township has a pattern of non-compliance with the OPMA, enjoining it from violating the OPMA in the future and appointing a court monitor to make sure the Township is in compliance with the OPMA.
Please Check Back Soon for Case Documents.