For immediate release
On August 31, 2015, the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, Inc. (NJFOG) submitted a formal Petition for Rulemaking to the Local Finance Board (LFB) within the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). (The petition and NJFOG’s cover letter can also be found on the DCA’s website.) NJFOG’s petition seeks changes in the rules that govern how the LFB processes citizen complaints against county and local officials that allege violations of the Local Government Ethics Law.
NJFOG’s petition seeks three categories of rule amendments:
Time constraints on resolving ethics complaints.
Under current rules, the LFB is not subject to any time constraints for conducting its ethics law investigations. NJFOG’s petition cites to case that had been pending for nearly three and half years and others that have been in the investigative stage for more than two years. NJFOG proposes an amendment requiring an investigation to be completed within eighteen months of the LFB’s receipt of an ethics complaint.
Earlier public disclosure of ethics complaints.
Under current rules, all information concerning ethics complaints is held confidential until the complaint is finally resolved. Under NJFOG’s proposal, complaints will made public after the LFB completes its preliminary investigation, which must be completed within 120 days of the complaint’s filing.
Rejection of complaints that deal with conduct that is also the subject pending before a court or other tribunal.
NJFOG’s proposal would not allow the LFB to dismiss a complaint that alleges the same conduct that is the subject to an action by a court or another tribunal unless the complaint’s allegations are “substantially similar to the material allegations” made in the other matter. The rule would also require the LFB to inform the complainant that he or she may bring the complaint anew after the matter before the court or other tribunal has been resolved.
The New Jersey’s Administrative Procedures Act (APA), N.J.S.A. 52:14B-4(f), permits anyone to petition any state agency for a new rule or for an amendment to or a repeal of an existing rule. The same law requires the agency to formally grant any such petition, deny it with a statement of reasons or refer the matter for further deliberations to be concluded within ninety days.
The LFB considered NJFOG’s petition at its October 14, 2015 meeting. In a “Notice of Action on Petition for Rulemaking” published after the meeting, the LFB elected to “refer the matter to Local Finance Board staff for further deliberation and recommendation on further action within 90 days.”
The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) is the only non-profit organization in the state dedicated solely to improving New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and working to educate the public about these laws and increase governmental compliance, transparency, and accountability.
Press releases are for media use without restriction. Other NJFOG content may be re-published in whole or in part with credit to NJFOG. Thank you.