New Jersey city admits open records violation, must pay $5K in legal fees

The city of Bayonne, New Jersey, has admitted that it didn't clearly explain why it denied part of an open public records request and will be paying $5,000 in legal fees to resolve a lawsuit over the matter.

The city's Feb. 22 admission comes about a month after it said in an opposition brief that it "provided an appropriate and lawful response" to the request.


Fighting open records cost New Jersey $154K in taxpayer money last year

New Jersey taxpayers last year were on the hook for nearly $154,000 to settle court cases in which Gov. Chris Christie's administration tried to stop records from being disclosed to the public.
Last year's payouts included instances in which the administration attempted to shield records on how Christie, whose presidential campaign ended Feb. 10, attempted to promote himself to a national audience, as well as costs related to his frequent out-of-state travel.


Facing criticism, New Jersey lawmaker may change bill shielding police video from public

Facing scrutiny and criticism from civil rights and open government groups, a leading state lawmaker said Tuesday he was considering changes to proposed legislation that would shield police video and 911 recordings from the public.

"This is a work in progress," state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) said of his bill (S788), which would exempt such recordings and transcripts from the New Jersey's Open Public Records Act, during a transparency forum hosted by the Bergen County chapter of the NAACP.


Report: New Jersey agencies face challenges as advocates seek era of open government data

Meeting the public’s demand for open government data presents opportunities for elected and appointed officials, as well as many challenges, including associated costs and privacy issues, a Rutgers report finds.

Forty representatives from academia, civic groups, media, municipal, county and state government and open government advocates participated in an Open Government Data Thought Forum to learn about issues related to making various data collected and held by government agencies available to the public in unrestricted, reusable and redistributable form.


N.J. lawmaker pushes bill to keep police videos, 911 calls from public

A bill before the New Jersey Legislature would cut public access to police video and audio recordings in New Jersey, making them accessible only by law enforcement or through a court order.

The measure (S788) would create an exemption to New Jersey's Open Public Records Act for "law enforcement camera recordings" as well as 911 calls and transcripts. Its introduction comes as police departments across the state are implementing body camera programs amid a national climate of scrutiny of law enforcement practices spurred by high-profile police shootings.


Court nixes attempt to obtain records on Christie’s travel

A New Jersey appeals court ruled in favor of Gov. Chris Christie's office Thursday in a dispute over a reporter's request for the governor's out-of-state travel expense records.

The three-judge panel held reporter Mark Lagerkvist's request exceeded the limits of New Jersey's Open Public Records Act.

Last year, Lagerkvist requested records of Christie's travel to third-party-funded events, including who paid for his travel. The records custodian said it was not specific enough and denied the request.


Media companies begin appeal of N.J. public records ruling

New Jersey's largest newspapers and some of the biggest U.S. media companies are challenging a 2013 ruling by a Bergen County judge that they say gives government agencies in New Jersey unprecedented power to deny requests for public records.

Experts call it one of the most consequential legal battles involving privacy rights and government transparency New Jersey has seen in years. A state appeals court heard oral arguments for nearly two hours Tuesday.