N.J. Sunshine Law primer: Your rights to attend and speak at governing body and school board public meetings

N.J. Sunshine Law primer: Your rights to attend and speak at governing body and school board public meetings

Members of a public body cannot censor your speech during a public comment portion of a meeting because the members do not agree with you or like what you are saying. The public body also cannot prohibit comments based on subject matter…

What N.J. law says about personnel records and discussions
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What N.J. law says about personnel records and discussions

New Jersey law governs what public bodies like school boards can and can’t discuss in public and can or can’t disclose when it comes to documents. The Open Public Meetings Act The “Sunshine Law,” otherwise known as the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), gives the public the right to be present at meetings of public bodies…

Settlement reached in Planet Princeton’s public records case seeking sewer department records
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Settlement reached in Planet Princeton’s public records case seeking sewer department records

The municipality of Princeton and Mercer County have produced more than 1,500 pages of emails and other documents in response to public records requests and a lawsuit that was filed by Planet Princeton this summer regarding documents related to illegal dumping at the town’s sewer department facility on River Road in the northeastern section of…

Princeton Public Schools delays release of public records for the third time
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Princeton Public Schools delays release of public records for the third time

The public records custodian for the Princeton Public Schools has extended the time for releasing public records to Planet Princeton for a third time in response to recent public records requests. Planet Princeton filed two public records requests with the Princeton Public Schools back on Nov. 14. Under state law, a public agency has seven…

Princeton School Board approves controversial new communications document some residents view as a gag order
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Princeton School Board approves controversial new communications document some residents view as a gag order

The Princeton Board of Education voted recently to adopt a new communications charter that designates the school board president as the spokesperson for the board, as does an already existing board policy. Other board members are not supposed to speak to the press about board matters. The charter says board members should not share confidential…

Federal Court: NJ public records custodians can’t abdicate role at the behest of law enforcement agencies
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Federal Court: NJ public records custodians can’t abdicate role at the behest of law enforcement agencies

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a decision Wednesday in a public records case that is similar to Planet Princeton’s lawsuit against the town of Princeton and Mercer County. The precedent-setting decision is a victory for journalists and public records advocates. In 2015, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Daniel Golden and publicist…

Planet Princeton starts to receive documents related to public records lawsuit about former landfill, sewer department site
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Planet Princeton starts to receive documents related to public records lawsuit about former landfill, sewer department site

Planet Princeton has started receiving documents from Mercer County and the Municipality of Princeton in response to a lawsuit filed last month seeking public records related to the municipal sewer department site, the former landfill and the town’s solar arrays. Princeton officials and a lawyer for Mercer County both previously issued blanket denials of Planet…

Planet Princeton files lawsuit against municipality, county and prosecutor seeking public records related to sewer department, landfill, solar arrays
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Planet Princeton files lawsuit against municipality, county and prosecutor seeking public records related to sewer department, landfill, solar arrays

Planet Princeton has filed a lawsuit seeking public records related to the municipal sewer department site, the former landfill and the town’s solar arrays. Princeton officials and a lawyer for Mercer County both denied requests for records, citing an ongoing investigation into activity at the sewer department site by the Mercer County Prosecutor. The lawsuit…

Princeton and Mercer County officials deny requests for public records related to illegal dumping scandal
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Princeton and Mercer County officials deny requests for public records related to illegal dumping scandal

Princeton officials Tuesday denied a request from Planet Princeton for public records related to illegal dumping at the municipal sewer department property on River Road. Planet Princeton had requested various documents under the state’s Open Public Records Act and New Jersey Common Law. The documents Planet Princeton requested included: -All contracts between the municipality and…

NJ Department of Education officials won’t provide data on possible school construction project backlog
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NJ Department of Education officials won’t provide data on possible school construction project backlog

Two weeks ago, the superintendent of the Princeton Public Schools announced that the November bond referendum would be postponed because the New Jersey Department of Education had not approved the district’s proposed construction projects. Planet Princeton then reached out to a spokesman for the Department of Education asking how many districts were waiting for the…

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Mercer County judge rules that police body camera recordings are not exempt from public disclosure

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson has ruled that records created from police body-warn cameras are not exempt from public disclosure under the state’s Open Public Records Act. Officials in Burlington County denied a citizen’s request for footage and audio from a police body camera, citing the Open Public Records Act’s exemption for criminal…

Journalism organization calls on NJ attorney general to make police dash cam videos a public record

The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is urging Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to adopt a statewide policy that all police dash cam videos be classified as public records. Grewal has already made dash cam videos from fatal police shootings a public record. The request comes in response to last week’s New…

Campaign finance watchdog group files suit against State of New Jersey and Chris Christie over refusal to release Jared Kushner emails
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Campaign finance watchdog group files suit against State of New Jersey and Chris Christie over refusal to release Jared Kushner emails

MapLight, a campaign finance watchdog group, has filed a lawsuit in Mercer County Superior Court challenging the state’s refusal to release emails between former Governor Chris Christie’s administration and Jared Kushner’s companies. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the wake of a decision by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration  to go along with Christie’s demand…

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State of New Jersey receives a C- for financial information available to citizens online

When it comes to sharing information about spending online,  New Jersey has a long way to go it be transparent. The state received a score of 68 out of 100 and a grade of C- in the recent survey “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending…