On February 23, 2017, Howell Township (Monmouth County) Manager Jeff Mayfield distributed a memo warning Township workers about three “freelance journalists” who he claims intend “to instigate public employees to take actions that are illegal with the hopes of being able to file a lawsuit.”

Along with his memo, he included photographs of the trio along with their last known addresses and, in one case, the make, model and license plate number of her car.  I’ve placed the memo, but not the photographs, on-line here.  Each photo is head shot akin to a driver license photo.  Beneath each photo is a description listing the age, address and ethnicity of the person and the phrase “Known to frequent the Howell Township area.  Subject may attempt to audio and video tape government employees and government buildings.”

Mayfield doesn’t claim that any of these three did anything illegal.  It is legal for citizens to visit the public areas of government buildings and ask questions of government officials and employees.  Indeed, Mayfield’s memo concedes that “people are permitted to videotape any location on public property.”  According to the memo, the trio “approached the Township Clerk’s window and began asking a variety of questions and videotaping through the windows a couple of months ago.”  Mayfield also claimed that one of the trio “entered the lobby of the Howell Police Department on Friday afternoon and began asking for a form that does not exist and then began videotaping through the glass window at the Communications window.”

Mayfield advises Township employees to address the trio “by their entire names and addresses as they do not like this because their information will then be posted on their own posted video.”  According to the memo, the trio typically “broadcast their videos on a Facebook page.”

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