In addition to covering the news, Gannett has become a subject of the stories now with this latest action:
The Courier News on behalf of Gannett New Jersey newspapers filed suit against the Borough of Raritan Tuesday for failing to provide public payroll records to the newspaper group.
The borough said the records would not be released unless the newspaper paid $1,100 in fees to its payroll vendor; the borough also offered to provide the information for less in a PDF format. Gannett sought the data in a computer-readable format so the information could be analyzed and compared with other towns.
The paper was trying to get payroll records as a part of their Tax Crush series the recently ran. Here’s what they said about filing the suit:
In the lawsuit, the Courier News says that under state law, it has a right to gain access and inspect the records without paying a fee in excess of the actual cost to copy the records in a non-PDF format.
Thomas Cafferty, the attorney for the Courier News, said the suit focuses on two points – the newspaper’s right to obtain the information in the format it requested and the borough asking for a special service charge to put the information in that format.
Cafferty said it is the newspaper’s position that state law does not allow a government entity to ask for a special service charge. He said the municipality should only be charging the newspaper $5 or $10, the cost for transferring the data to a computer disk.
There is no precedent for the Courier News action, Cafferty said.
The newspaper chose to take the action in Superior Court, rather than the state Government Records Council which was established to hear records disputes, because the decisions of the GRC are not precedential.
The township was not amused by the lawsuit:
Paul Rizzo, Raritan Borough’s attorney, said the lawsuit was “frivolous” and “factually inaccurate.” He declined further comment.
It will be interesting to see what the Judge has to say on this one.