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Lawsuit Claims LBI Board Of Education Meetings Violate Sunshine Law
The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government filed suit in Ocean County Superior Court earlier this month against the Long Beach Island Board of Education, alleging the board committed multiple violations of the state’s Open Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act. Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford is scheduled to hear the case on Friday, April 8 at 9 a.m.
The nonprofit foundation seeks to increase transparency and accountability in all levels of government by improving public access to records and meetings.
According to the organization, the complaint against the LBI school board “cites the board for violating OPRA by ignoring portions of NJFOG’s records request and by making improper redactions to the board’s closed (i.e. non-public or executive) meeting minutes. Additionally, the complaint accuses the board of providing NJFOG with redacted versions of its meeting minutes when unredacted versions of those same minutes were on the board’s website.”
In addition, the lawsuit claims the board violated OPMA, commonly known as the Sunshine Law, “by failing to keep minutes of some of its closed meetings, failing to keep minutes that are sufficiently detailed, discussing topics in closed session which ought to have been discussed in public, not holding a public comment period during certain public meetings and not properly advertising its meetings,” the nonprofit states.
“Our goal is to put local governments on notice that they need to obey the laws designed to guarantee citizens’ access to public meetings and records,” said NJFOG President Walter Luers. “When multiple agencies are taken to court for similar violations, it should be a wake-up call that encourages good behavior by other public agencies.
“We need stronger laws,” Luers added. “Better enforcement provisions, especially for the OPMA, may encourage more widespread compliance by public agencies.”
NJFOG filed successful lawsuits against the Island Heights Board of Education in 2014 and against the Trenton Board of Education last year.
LBI Board of Education President Jennifer Bott said that because the matter involves litigation, under the advice of counsel the board has no comment at this time. —J.K.-H.
Article Courtesy of The Sandpaper
Photo courtesy of Jack Reynolds
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