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Thursday, October 15, 2009

BREAKING: Director's settlement with Dover may have to be divulged

The Government Records Council has ruled that Plainfield's Director of Administration and Finance's settlement with her previous employer is a public record and that a confidentiality agreement in the severance agreement does not constitute a legal basis for denying public access to the document.

This according to an email received this morning from John Paff, who is with the NJ Foundation for Open Government.

Here is the text of Paff's email --

[An] article in Wednesday's Daily Record concerns the Government Records Council's September 30, 2009 decision in Joe Ungaro v. Town of Dover (Morris), GRC Complaint No. 2008-115. In that decision, the GRC ruled that a confidentiality clause in an administrator's severance agreement does not constitute a legal basis for denying public access to the agreement. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to read the GRC decision because it hasn't yet put any of the cases decided on September 30, 2009 on its web site.)

The GRC's decision is consistent with the Appellate Division's March 17, 2009 decision in Asbury Park Press and John Paff v. Monmouth County. In that case, the court held that the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) did not permit Monmouth County to deny access to an agreement that the county entered into to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Despite the positive rulings, the issue of whether or not a confidentiality agreement forecloses public access is still an open question. At Monmouth County's request, the New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to review the Appellate Division's decision, and oral argument will be held on November 2nd or 3rd.

John Paff

Paff references the Daily Record story on Ms. Taylor's settlement, which Plainfield Today broke here.

Seems like the curious may get to find out the FINANCIAL details soon enough, though the reasons for the severance itself may never fully come to light.

-- Dan Damon

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