The Princeton Council met in closed session Monday night to discuss how to handle legal fees in Planet Princeton’s public records case regarding police jurisdiction. The town is still in discussions regarding its portion of the legal bills, officials said.
If a public agency in New Jersey refuses a citizen’s public records request, the citizen can challenge the public records denial in court.
Planet Princeton was the prevailing party in a case that was decided in Mercer County Superior Court in July regarding policing agreements between Princeton University’s Department of Public Safety and the Princeton Police Department. Under New Jersey law, a citizen who wins a public records case against a public agency is entitled to legal fees from the agency that denied the public records request.
In February, Planet Princeton requested copies of all policing agreements for the last few years and the town rejected the request in its entirety. Planet Princeton then filed a lawsuit, and the town handed over the agreements as a result of the suit. Princeton University objected to the release of a map and a chart that were attached to two of the agreements. The town was willing to release the attachments, but did not do so because of the university’s position. The school then became an intervenor in the case, and agreed to be responsible for the legal fees in the case from that point on.
The town must pay the lawyer for Planet Princeton about $4,000. Princeton University’s portion of the bill is about $9,000 to $10,000.