John P. Schmidt – President
Michele Arminio – Vice President
John Paff – Treasurer
Jennifer Borg, Esq.
Walter M. Luers, Esq.
Cynthia A. McBride, C.T.C.
Lee is a public advocate and the founder of Essex Watch, a non-partisan government watchdog organization operating in multiple municipalities in New Jersey.
Lee specializes in identifying and reporting fraud and waste in local government, with particular focus on public contracts, campaign finance, redevelopment, and municipal tax abatement abuse.
Lee has been featured several times on News 12’s popular “Kane In Your Corner” series for his investigative journalism. Lee’s efforts helped to uncover a Belleville School District deficit of $4 million, a scandal involving the sale of USB drives to the District by a sitting member of the Board of Education, and a Belleville Councilman’s remainder in office months after having moved out of New Jersey. One week after Lee’s report was published arguing that he was in violation of the New Jersey First Act, the councilman was removed from public office.
A former Wall Street securities trader, Lee has been a business technology consultant and project manager for nearly 20 years, as well as a contractor for a major U.S. defense firm.
Lee is also a lifelong aviation enthusiast, student pilot, and occasional skydiver.
Michele Arminio, Vice President
Michele is a full time real estate agent and lifetime New Jersey resident. She currently resides in Monroe Township and serves as an elected member of the Monroe Township Board of Education.
Michele is a member of grass roots community action groups that advocate for citizen participation in municipal, county and state governance. She has been instrumental in implementing Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) policies that increase the transparency of Monroe School District’s operations. Michele is also an advocate for local and state environmental protection. She is a member of the Edison Wetlands Association, Lawrence Brook Watershed Council and Pinelands Preservation Alliance.
Michele is a graduate of Douglass College, Rutgers University.
John Paff, Treasurer
John has advocated for governmental transparency for many years. He has served on the NJFOG board since 2010, and has served as the organization’s treasurer since August 2013.
Additionally, John has served as the Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project since 2003 and is a founder of Libertarians for Transparent Government, a New Jersey non-profit newly formed in February 2016.
John works to ensure that public agencies are following the OPRA and OPMA laws and writes about noteworthy issues in his blog NJ Open Government Notes, one of several blogs he maintains to publicize matters of public interest. John was dubbed “New Jersey’s busiest open government activist” by reporter Colleen O’Dea, who featured him in her February 2014 profile piece “Profile: The Man Who Makes Sure Government Works – Right Out in the Open.” He was also featured in a May 2015 Philadelphia Inquirer article by Jan Hefler entitled “The transparency guru of New Jersey” and an article by Claire Lowe published on October 26, 2016 in the Press of Atlantic City entitled “How John Paff relentlessly pursues public’s right to know.”
In 2014, John was honored as the year’s sole award winner and 15th inductee into the State Open Government Freedom of Information Hall of Fame. Known as the “Heroes of the Fifty States,” the joint initiative of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists recognizes the recipient’s “long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.”
John is a graduate of Rutgers College, New Brunswick. After college, John opened an insurance agency that he operated for several years in both New Brunswick and North Brunswick, NJ. He served as a member of the Middlebush Volunteer Fire Department from 1992 through 2015 and served as the Department’s president from 2009 to 2014.
Don, a New Jersey native and the married father of three sons, is CEO and principal of Flemington-based General Pallet LLC, a leading supplier of pallets and specialty packaging. Don himself designed automated manufacturing equipment for the business.
Don graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio with a major in Philosophy. He also attended The New School in New York City, took courses at Middlesex County College, received flight training at Princeton Airport and is trained as an emergency medical technician.
An instrument-rated private pilot, Don owns a Cirrus SR22 aircraft and is a volunteer member of the Veterans Airlift Command, a group that provides free air transport to wounded soldiers and their family members. Don’s company is a corporate sponsor of the Air Force Association and participates in the ESGR Program (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve), which gives priority to the hiring of returning veterans and their spouses. In addition, Don serves on the board of directors of the New Jersey Aviation Association.
Don’s other activities include freelance writing, stand-up comedy, rhythm guitar, motorcycles, politics and open-government activism.
Jennifer Borg, Esq.
Jennifer Borg is a Visiting Clinical Instructor at the Media Freedom and Information Access law clinic at Yale Law School and Of Counsel to Pashman Stein Walder Hayden in Hackensack, New Jersey where she specializes in media law.
Formerly, she was General Counsel, Vice President, and Corporate Secretary of North Jersey Media Group Inc, which published more than 50 newspapers and magazines. As head of the legal department, Borg handled all First Amendment issues and right-of-access claims, as well as all the company’s litigation and transactional matters. Borg was awarded the ACLU-NJ’s Legal Leadership Award in 2017 and has won numerous lawsuits on behalf of reporters to serve the public’s right to know.
In 2014, Borg successfully litigated many cases under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, helping Bergen County’s daily newspaper The Record in its award-winning breaking news coverage of “Bridgegate.” Borg was also involved in major copyright issues, such as the licensing of the iconic photograph taken by The Record’s Thomas E. Franklin showing three firefighters raising an American flag at Ground Zero. Borg is President of the Foundation of Northern New Jersey f/k/a North Jersey Media Group Foundation, which she founded in 2002 to assist those who suffered losses as a result of the events of September 11.
Borg serves on the board of The Tully Center for Free Speech and is a former board member of several non-profit organizations including Table to Table Inc. Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey Press Association, the Dwight Englewood School and The Marilyn Horne Foundation.
Fran practiced Applied Anthropology with a focus on land use and farmland preservation for over 25 years. She has worked as a consulting anthropologist for Rutgers University, Michigan State University, and independent clients. She received her BA degree from the University of Wisconsin and Ph.D. from Rutgers University.
Fran served on the Tabernacle Township Committee 1999-2000 before devoting herself to advocating for government accountability and transparency as a member of the public. In 2013, she created “The Tabernacle Journal,” a blog that provides in-depth coverage of local government in Tabernacle Township, NJ.
Walter M. Luers, Esq.
Walter is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1996 and from Fordham University in 1999.
Since 2007, Walter has concentrated on matters pertaining to the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) and the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”). He advises and represents individuals and corporations in lawsuits and administrative actions against public agencies that have violated these laws.
In 2010, Walter was recognized by the New Jersey Law Journal as one of ten “Lawyers of the Year” for his work in OPRA, and he regularly speaks to community groups around the State about both OPRA and OPMA.
Walter has been an Officer of NJFOG since 2011, serving 7 years as the organization’s President until June 2020.
Walter is a partner at Cohn, Lifland, Pearlman, Herrmann and Knopf, LLP in Saddle Brook, NJ.
Cynthia A. McBride, C.T.C.
Cindy is a life-long resident of New Jersey and has been a Certified Tax Collector for over 25 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of New Jersey and is currently employed by Signature Information Solutions in Trenton. Signature is a provider of information services to the title insurance, banking and lending industries, and its products include tax searches, county searches and upper court judgment searches. Cindy is Signature’s representative on NJFOG’s board.
In her role at Signature, Cindy requests public records from many New Jersey government entities. As a result, she has daily interaction with these entities. She monitors activities of the NJ Government Records Council (GRC), attends GRC meetings regularly and is a committed supporter of government transparency.
Cindy enjoys volunteering as a tutor for English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students at the English School in Lawrenceville, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.
Ron is a graduate of Rutgers College (now Rutgers University) in New Brunswick and received his Master’s of Liberal Studies from Rutgers-Newark. While at Rutgers, he was an editor of The Targum and was a member of WRSU radio. He spent many years in the broadcast industry on the air and later as a reporter for The Home News Tribune; after that he worked as a photographer for Greater Media newspapers.
Ron also owned a printing company, a photo studio and a firm that provides layout services for high school and college student newspapers. In the 1980s he published a local newspaper. He has been a part-time lecturer at Rutgers since the 1980s and is now a full-time faculty member. He is also the associate director of the Journalism Research Institute at Rutgers.
Ron is a former president of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ-NJ) and former Treasurer. He serves on the board of the Garden State Scholastic Press Association.
Ron served as the President of NJFOG from 2009 to 2011.
John P. Schmidt, President
As an open government advocate, John is committed to improving transparency and has worked to educate himself and others with regard to New Jersey’s open public records and meetings laws. He is also well-versed in other laws, including those applicable to boards and authorities, and has a strong interest in government financial accountability.
John has served as a Commissioner for the Clementon Borough Housing Authority since 2011 and is now serving his second 5-year term following re-appointment in 2016. He has served as Board Chairman since July of 2015.
John was born and raised in South Jersey and attended high school at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, PA before attending college at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He holds a degree in Politics with a minor in Media Studies. He completed his graduate education from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in 2017.
John served as vice president of NJFOG from 2015 through 2016, and as President from 2016 through 2018.
Isaac is a reporter at The Trentonian in the New Jersey’s capital. He is a two-time recipient of New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists’ Courage Under Fire honor, a two-time prior restraint winner and a two-time testicular cancer survivor.
He was involved in government censorship cases at the Connecticut Law Tribune and The Trentonian that received national attention and garnered the publications honors from local SPJ chapters. Isaac’s reporting on a child endangerment case in Trenton was profiled by the Daily Beast in 2016, after the New Jersey Attorney General attempted to suppress publication of his story on a legally obtained document that delved into how a 5-year-old kindergartener was twice found with drugs at school.
A native New Mexican and graduate of University of New Mexico, Isaac — who prefers red chile over green in the age-old debate — cut his teeth as managing editor and sports editor at the student newspaper, the Daily Lobo.
Isaac has been described as a reporter who has “caused a right-minded (if, occassionally, wrong-headed) stir at nearly every place he’s reported, from the Rio Grande to the Delaware River.”
Melissa Szanto, Esq.
Melissa is an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law. She is a graduate of Rutgers Law School, holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Vermont, and has worked for almost 20 years as in-house counsel for a large medical device company in New Jersey.
Melissa has taken an active role in local government issues in the past, and strongly believes that government transparency is critical to ensuring that government entities properly serve their constituents. Melissa also previously served as a board member on the Readington Township Board of Education.
In her spare time Melissa enjoys cycling and spending time with her three boys whom she has raised in New Jersey.