On October 1, 2012, the Borough of Pine Hill (Camden County) asked a federal judge to allow it to seek civil damages from an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requestor who obtained records that led to an invasion of privacy lawsuit currently pending against the Borough.  The documents relating to this matter are on-line here.

According to the court filings, in October 2011, Gloucester City resident John Schmidt submitted an OPRA request to the Borough of Pine Hill seeking documents relating to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the Borough by a Borough employee.  While Schmidt’s request was for motions and briefs filed in the lawsuit, Pine Hill provided him with some documents that were not within the scope of his request that contained “confidential and private information” which the employee claims was “intentionally released [by the Borough] to embarrass and cast [the employee] and his family in a poor light.”   The records the Borough disclosed to Schmidt allegedly contained the employee’s children’s social security numbers, information suggesting that the employee’s wife abused prescription medication and that acts of domestic violence occurred at the employee’s residence.

In its October 1, 2012 filing, the Borough contends that its release of this confidential information to Schmidt was “inadvertent” and that Schmidt “intentionally disclosed and transmitted that information to others, including a newspaper reporter.”  Accordingly, the Borough wants to bring Schmidt in as a defendant in the lawsuit so that he is forced to contribute to any monetary damages that the Borough may be required to pay as a result of the employee’s family invasion of privacy lawsuit.  In other words, Pine Hill is seeking to make Schmidt financially liable for allegedly redistributing the same information that the Borough itself had no right to disclose.

Pine Hill’s bid to bring Schmidt into the lawsuit will be determined at a November 5, 2012 court hearing.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]