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NJ Open Government Notes

Appellate Court: Volunteer Fire Company is subject to OPRA.


Update: In an August 7, 2017 decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Millstone Valley Fire Department was an “instrumentality of an instrumentality” and thus not subject to OPRA.


Update: On June 6, 2016, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to review whether Millstone Valley Fire Department an “instrumentality” of the Franklin Fire District No.1 and thus a “public agency” subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA)

In a March 15, 2016, unpublished opinion, a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court agreed that a volunteer fire company under the jurisdiction of a fire district is a government agency and thus subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).  The Appellate Division, however, declined to decide whether or not records related to the fire company’s social functions–as distinguished from its government functions–should be excluded from OPRA’s scope.

The decision affirmed an April 29, 2014, ruling by the Government Records Council in Robert A. Verry v. Franklin Fire District No. 1 (Somerset), GRC Case No. 2013-196 that Millstone Valley Fire Department, which is located in Franklin Township (Somerset County) “is a member of the Franklin Fire District No. 1 per N.J.S.A. 40A:14-70.1 and thus serves a governmental function under the supervision and control of the Franklin Fire District No. 1 [and] it is a public agency for purposes of OPRA.”

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to paff@pobox.com