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NJ Open Government Notes

Judge: OPRA requires disclosure of golf club’s bid to provide recreational amenities at Liberty State Park.

On July 25, 2018, Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson ordered the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to disclose the sole bid that it received in response to its Request for Proposal (RFP) for recreational amenities in the Caven Point area of Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

The NJDEP and the bidder, Liberty National Golf Club, which operates a golf course adjacent to the Caven Point area, both opposed public disclosure of the bid citing the Open Public Records Acts’ (OPRA) competitive advantage exception and arguing that the bid contained confidential and proprietary information.

The plaintiff in the OPRA case, Steve Ramshur, argued that the RFP itself warned bidders that their submissions would be public records and that no competitive disadvantage would result from disclosure because the bidding period had already been closed at the time the OPRA request was received.  “The disclosure of a bid only benefits competitors while the bidding process is open,” wrote Ramshur’s attorney Walter Luers. “Limiting access to prior bids or responses actually hurts competition . . . because it reduces information that is available to other potential bidders who can perhaps offer a better deal in a future round of bidding.”  The legal briefs filed by Ramshur, the NJDEP and Liberty National are on-line here

The wording of the orders suggest that Judge Jacobson will likely allow the NJDEP to continue to withhold disclosure of Liberty National’s bid if an appeal is taken from her ruling.  Judge Jacobson also ordered the NJDEP to pay Ramshur’s court costs and attorney fees.

By John Paff

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