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NJ Open Government Notes

Fire District’s insurer’s lawyer’s error causes OPRA case’s dismissal.

Yolanda Ciccone, A.J.S.C.

My Open Public Records Act (OPRA) lawsuit for disclosure of an agreement under which a former Franklin Township (Somerset County) fire commissioner settled his defamation lawsuit against several fire officials has been dismissed.  Background on that suit is on-line here.

Somerset County Assignment Judge Yolanda Ciccone’s decision to dismiss, however, was based on an erroneous statement made by the fire district’s insurance carrier’s attorney during a January 12, 2015 court hearing.  The insurer’s attorney, Raina M. Pitts of the Edison law firm of Methfessel & Werbel mistakenly told Ciccone that her client, American Alternative Insurance Corp, was not in possession of the settlement agreement.

Pitts advised Judge Ciccone of her error in a January 19, 2015 letter.  Judge Ciccone’s order and decision and a copy of Pitts’ letter are on-line here.  Given that the dismissal was caused by inaccurate information, we plan on asking Ciccone to reconsider her ruling.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project