Back in 2009, I sued Lumberton Township (Burlington County) because the Township Committee wasn’t promptly disclosing the non-exempt parts of its nonpublic (executive or closed) session minutes to the public. During that action, I learned that Lumberton had completely lost the minutes of all executive sessions held prior to 2003. The Consent Judgment that resolved my lawsuit took steps to keep Lumberton from losing any more of its executive session minutes.
Earlier this year, I learned that Lumberton again lost its executive session minutes from 2011, 2012 and 2013. Since Lumberton, by failing to secure its minutes, violated the terms of my 2009 Consent Judgment, I, with Ted Rosenberg of Moorestown as my attorney, filed a Motion to Enforce Litigants’ Rights.
In an August 14, 2015 letter, Lumberton Township Solicitor George M. Morris, who was not the Township Solicitor at the time the minutes were lost, described in detail how the 2011, 2012 and 2013 minutes were lost.
As for the missing 2011 through 20l3 minutes, I immediately made inquiry as to whether paper forms of the documents exist. My inquiry included direct discussions with the Municipal Clerk, former Municipal Solicitor and each member of the governing body. I learned that as a standard practice, the governing body and the solicitor were provided paper copies of the minutes before their meetings. They reviewed the minutes and approved the same. Because the minutes were approved, but not yet authorized for release, the paper copies were collected and destroyed. Unfortunately, no paper copy was retained for these specific years, The electronic versions of the minutes were left on a thumb drive and that drive was corrupted, The Township worked with IT specialists to restore the information but it was unrecoverable.
The hearing on my motion is currently scheduled for September 4, 2015.