This morning Judge Wilson heard oral arguments on the OTOV petition and delivered a prepared decision from the Bench.
The order has been filed, allowing the question to proceed to the ballot in November. The Township indicated it would appeal based on various issues.
The order appears below (the full decision hasn’t been entered on the docket. The petitioners did not receive attorneys’ fees, so petitioners will bear their own costs.
The Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”)
Whether at the council, Board of Education, Planning Board or Environmental Commission, there’s a chance to speak directly to those in power to decide issues, before those issues are voted upon.
But there’s another principle at play with the public’s right to speak: namely, the right of everyone to have business conducted by their elected representatives.
Imagine what would happen if someone didn’t like something the council was proposing and lined up enough people to speak for hours until we could no longer hold a vote?
In essence, it would be a veto by a filibuster (sometimes called the “heckler’s veto“). Therefore, while I’ve rarely seen it employed, the ability to cut off speakers at a reasonable point exists, to ensure that the business of the public is properly capable of being conducted, while still protecting the right of the public to speak.
The Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”)
OPRA has a similar issue in terms of balancing priorities.
The law was enacted to enable public access to public records. If you want to see Ordinance 33-2018, all you need to do is request it and the clerk’s office is obliged, under statutory authority to provide a copy to you within 7 days. You can even get it via email.
OPRA is a wonderful law, in terms of moving forward with transparency.
But like OPMA, it has the ability to be abused. We’ve seen this in the past.
“All e-mails between Executive Director Mr. William Fellenberg to NJCU OPRA Officer Alfred Ramey”
You see, this isn’t asking for the email sent regarding X. It’s just a request for everything.
OPRA is meant to allow access to public documents, but it’s not meant to enable snooping through files for anyone who wishes to do so. Continue reading “OPRA and OPMA: Balancing important principles”