Sun Shines On NJSLOM: NJ Supremes Rule Powerful State League Subject To OPRA

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Each year the annual conference of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJSLOM) is held in AC—always held in November after elections and before Thanksgiving. This is the largest annual gathering of state elected officials in the country. And until yesterday, NJSLOM could operate in relative secrecy from public scrutiny.

But, no more.

Yesterday, the NJ Supremes ruled unanimously that NJSLOM is “a public agency whose records are subject to disclosure”, in a opinion written by Justice Barry Albin.

Legally, under Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to 13, any “instrumentality” created by “political subdivisions,” is subject to OPRA, and must release its records to the public.

The Court ruled that NJSLOM meets the criteria for that standard, in ruling on Fair Share Housing Center v. N.J. State League of Municipalities, A-36-10.

Some important deets:

• NJSLOM receives some funding from taxpayer dollars.

• Every town, borough, city or township in the state is a member.

• NJSLOM staff are enrolled in the state pension system.

Justice Albin concluded that those ‘deets’ make NJSLOM a “public agency”.

Albins extact words:

Those who enacted OPRA understood that knowledge is power in a democracy, and that without access to information contained in records maintained by public agencies citizens cannot monitor the operation of our government or hold public officials accountable for their actions.

Well said. Justice Albin. We need more transparency in government at every level.

Did the NJ Supremes get this one right?

NJSLOM maintained that:

Documents it keeps should not be considered government records. Every one of New Jersey’s mayors can join together to do business, lobby the Legislature and spend taxpayer funds out of the public eye. The lower court in Mercer County had ruled that the league was more of a lobbying agency or trade group, and did not spend public taxpayer money.

The Supreme Court rejected all of those arguments.

And so, now, New Jersey residents have a bit more sunshine than they did before.

At least until Irene arrives.

Comment (1)

  1. Senator Loretta Weinberg

    when we cover them under the newly revised OPRA/OPMA bills

    Reply

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