Hoboken Clerk sued for OPRA violation - $1,000 "knowing and willful" fine sought

Hoboken Clerk sued for OPRA violation - $1,000 "knowing and willful" fine sought

Media Advisory - September 7, 2006

In a Superior Court complaint filed Thursday, Hoboken resident Helen Hirsch accused City Clerk James Farina of violating the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) by failing to give her full access to a Financial Disclosure Statement filed by Hoboken Fire Chief John Cassesa.

The Local Government Ethics Law (N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.1 et seq.), requires "Local Government Officers," such as fire chiefs, to annually file a two-page Financial Disclosure Statement (FDS) that publicly reveals the sources of their and their families' income, as well as real estate and businesses within which they and their families have a financial interest.  The idea behind the FDS is to inform the public of what businesses and real estate enterprises that public officials and their immediate families own, so that conflicts of interest can be more readily identified.

Instead of releasing Cassesa's FDS to Hirsch in full, Farina redacted (i.e. blacked out) portions that revealed the companies and individuals that paid Cassesa and his family members more than $2,000 during 2005.  Farina also blacked out the part of the form revealing the Cassesa family's real estate holdings.  Farina did not provide Hirsch with any reasons for why the information was redacted, despite OPRA's requirement that requestors be given the "specific basis" whenever any requested information is suppressed.  Also, since Farina withheld information that state law requires to be made public, the suit requests that the Court impose a $1,000 fine on Farina for "knowingly and willfully" denying access to public information.

Hirsh's lawsuit, which was directed to Hudson County Superior Court Judge Carmen Messano, was filed on Hirsch's behalf by Montclair attorney Richard Gutman.

See Cassesa's FDS

See the Superior Court complaint and brief

Comments (1)

City Hall Worker
Said this on 9-8-2006 At 01:18 am
That old lady has more balls than alot of the political guys. Where is our contract? The directors all got there's.

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