Friday, March 2, 2012

Englewood Cliffs threatened with lawsuit over tardy minutes

UPDATE: On March 6, 2012, I received the following e-mail from E. Carter Corriston Sr. Esq., the Borough Attorney:
In response to your fax of March 2, 2012, please be advised of the following.

It is my understanding that you have been furnished with your request for records as set forth in #1 and #2. Please see attached e-mail of Susan Spohn to me dated March 5, 2012.

In addition, she is furnishing you after our meeting of March 14, 2012, the minutes of the three most recently held nonpublic executive meetings. These are available and she has advised me that she has them in her possession.

As to #3, we will approve the minutes of the three most recently held meetings by the governing body and furnish them to you as soon as they are approved on March 14th.

I would ask that you refrain from taking further action in regard to this matter and if you have any objections to this letter you can contact me directly at 201-342-4014.

I faxed the following letter today to Borough Attorney Corriston.

John Paff
March 2, 2012

E. Carter Corriston, Esq.
Breslin & Breslin
41 Main St
Hackensack, NJ 07601 (via fax only to 201-342-3077)

Dear Mr. Corriston:

On January 27, 2012, I e-mailed the following records request to Englewood Cliffs Borough Clerk Susan Spohn:

Subject: OPRA Request

Please accept this e-mail/fax as my request for government records in accordance with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access. Please respond and send all responsive documents to me via e-mail at If e-mail is not possible, please fax responses and responsive records to me at 908-325-0129. Also, I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge your receipt of this e-mail/fax.

Records requested:

1. The minutes of three most recently held nonpublic (i.e. "closed" or "executive") municipal governing body meetings for which minutes are available for public disclosure in either full or redacted form.

2. The resolutions, as required by N.J.S.A. 10:4-13, that authorized the three nonpublic meetings for which minutes were provided in response to #1 above. (If the resolutions are spread out in full in the public meeting minutes (as opposed to "free standing" resolutions), please furnish only those pages of the public meeting minutes that contain the resolutions.)

3. The minutes of three most recently held public municipal governing body meetings for which minutes are available for public disclosure.

On February 8, 2012, I spoke with Clerk Spohn regarding the fact that I had not yet received a response to my January 27, 2012 request. As you are aware, citizens are entitled to some sort of written response within seven business days of the Borough's receipt of a request.

Clerk Spohn conceded that she should have responded earlier and indicated that she was intending to respond today. She indicated that production of the Borough Council's meeting minutes was delayed, but she didn't advise me of the length of the delay. She said that there would several sets of meeting minutes up for approval at the February 8, 2012 meeting. I agreed to extend the time within which she could respond to my request until February 22, 2012. This is more time than she wanted, but I offered it since I would be on vacation the week of February 13th and wouldn't be able to review the minutes until February 22nd in any event.

Unfortunately, despite the extension, I have yet to hear anything further from Clerk Spohn regarding my January 27, 2012 request. Unfortunately, my only option at this point is to file a lawsuit or a Government Records Council complaint against the Borough. Please be advised that I plan to file an action on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. If you would like to speak with me about this matter, please contact me on Monday, March 5, 2012.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


/s/ John Paff

P.S. I also submitted another OPRA request to Clerk Spohn via e-mail on February 23, 2012. According to my calculations, the last day for Clerk Spohn to timely respond to that request is on Monday, March 5, 2012.

cc. Clerk Susan Spohn (via Fax only to 201-569-4356)

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