In a March 6, 2017 letter, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office told the Berkeley Heights (Union County) Library Board of Trustees that it violated the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) by discussing contract negotiations during a nonpublic (i.e closed or executive) session with the other party to the contract in attendance.
N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(b)(7) expressly permits contract negotiations to be discussed outside of public view to prevent the other party to the contract from learning the public body’s strategy. But, when the other party participates in the discussion, the only ones being kept in the dark are members of the public–the precise group the OPMA intends to keep informed.
The letter, authored by Acting Assistant Prosecutor Shawn P. Barnes, cites the unpublished Appellate Division opinion in Maureen Nevin, et al v. Asbury Park City Council and said that the case was “applicable and controlling in this case.” Nevin sat on the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government’s (NJFOG) Board of Directors as the representative of the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.