Judge Rules in City of Hackensack’s Favor in Precedent Setting OPRA Lawsuit
Mayor Labrosse: ‘Let’s Stop Wasting Time and Taxpayer Money on Frivolous Lawsuits and Excessive Records Requests’
HACKENSACK, N.J. — In a decision released this week, New Jersey Superior Court Assignment Judge Bonnie Mizdol has ruled in favor of the City of Hackensack in a lawsuit brought by a political opponent of the Mayor and Council, Steven Gelber, who sought to have their “Labrosse Team” Facebook page deemed a government record. Gelber was represented in the suit by Jason Nunnermacker, a former Hackensack School Board President and unsuccessful City Council candidate who lost his re-election campaign in April. The judge disagreed, citing the page’s political nature in both its content and its description and ruling that it is not an official government record subject to the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”).
Judge Mizdol wrote in her decision that the Facebook page “is not governmental in nature, nor intended by the Mayor and Council members to communicate with the general public through the page in their official capacities.” The full decision is attached.
“Everyone recognizes that the public has a right to access government records, but across the state political opportunists are abusing OPRA for their own purposes, leading to a tremendous strain on local governments and crippling cost to taxpayers,” said Mayor John Labrosse. “I am glad that the court ruled that this lawsuit had absolutely no merit and I am hopeful that Mr. Gelber and others will stop wasting our city’s time and our taxpayers’ money with these kinds of frivolous lawsuits and excessive records requests.”
Since the start of 2018, the City of Hackensack has received 35 individual OPRA requests from Mr. Gelber, with each request seeking up to 29 separate categories of records, amounting to thousands of pages of documents. City employees and contractors have spent hundreds of hours of time fulfilling these voluminous requests. Defending against Mr. Gelber’s lawsuit also came at a substantial expense to the City, but under current law it is extraordinarily difficult for the city to recover attorney’s fees even when an OPRA case against it is thrown out of court.
The City of Hackensack was represented in the case by its City Attorney, Steven Kleinman of the law firm Cleary, Giacobbe, Alfieri & Jacobs LLC.
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