Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sunshine Laws Re-enforced

John Paff makes it his business to ensure that local governments adhere to open public meeting laws.

He picks towns around New Jersey, often at random, to see if their governing bodies are complying with state laws. Paff then starts a dialogue with the officials in question and if he gets no results, the matter often winds up in court.

In recent weeks, Paff, who chairs the Open Government Task Force for the Libertarian Party of Central New Jersey, visited two Middlrsex communities, Monroe Township and Milltown, and found violations in both.

A Middlesex County Superior Court Judge on Monday issued a ruling that will give the public more information about topics discuss during government meetings from which the public is excluded. Judge Alexander P. Waugh granted Paff’s motion for summary judgment; denied a motion for summary judgment filed by the Monroe Township Board of Education; and ordered the board to pay Paff’s court costs.
In a written letter opinion, Judge Waugh held that ". . . the paramount public policy [behind the
Open Public Meetings Act] is not the convenience of the public entity, but rather the right ofNew Jersey citizens to have adequate advance notice of and the right to attend all meetings. . . [and to] vindicate that right, the Board must make a good faith effort to provide the public with as much knowledge as possible without endangering the 'public interest' or the rights of others."

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