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Lawsuit Filed Against Gloucester City Board of Ed

CNBNews.net is reporting that the Gloucester City Board of Education has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed against them for alleged Open Public Records Act (OPRA) violations.

On December 30, 2015, John Schmidt submitted an Open Public Records Act request to the Gloucester City School Board Custodian of Records, Margaret McDonnell. Schmidt requested six separate documents which included the minutes of the five most recently approved non-public (e.g. executive or closed) session of the School Board for which minutes are publicly disclosable either in full or in a redacted version. He received minutes of the Board’s Executive sessions held on August 11, September 3, October 8, November 4 and November 10, 2015.

Schmidt alleges that the August 11 minutes were redacted to conceal what would appear to be the name of an employee who was “arrested and charged with sexual assault.”

Furthermore, he alleges the minutes of the September 3 Executive Session were redacted to conceal what would appear to be a name of this same employee. He alleges the minutes of the November 10 Executive Session were redacted to conceal what would appear to the name of a Board member who “received a school ethics complaint.”

Schmidt alleges that Custodian McDonnell, or her agent, violated OPRA by not describing the nature of the redacted material in a manner, that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, enabled Schmidt to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection.

On February 25, Schmidt, who resides in Gloucester City, filed a lawsuit against the Gloucester City Board of Education and McDonnell alleging that the defendants violated the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) by not describing the nature of the redacted material in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, enable the plaintiff to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection.

Schmidt is asking for a privilege log containing sufficient detail so that he and the court can assess the applicability of the claimed justifications for the redactions in the provided executive sessions minutes. If the privilege log does not resolve the controversy, Schmidt is asking the Records Custodian to submit unredacted versions of the provided executive session minutes to the Court for an in camera inspection.

He is asking the Court to disclose either unredacted or more narrowly redacted versions of the Executive Session minutes, with the extent of the disclosure being determined by the Court. He is also asking for court costs and demands judgement against plaintiffs

The defendants have until March 28, 2016, to show cause opposition. The  Court date is scheduled for April 22, 2016, before Camden County Superior Court Judge Deborah Silverman Katz, in Superior Court, 101 S. Fifth Street, Camden.

Read more at CNBNews.net

*Article posted with permission from CNBNews.net