Judge Says Bare-Bones Agendas For Public Meetings Won't Suffice

, New Jersey Law Journal


He heard back from board counsel Steven Fogarty, who advised him that OPMA only mandates 48 hours' advance notice of a time, date and location and, to the extent known, the agenda, and he cited the attorney general's opinion.

Opderbeck showed up at the June 5 meeting and asked the board to change its policy on attachments, but it failed to take up the request.

After three days of failing to reach Fogarty by phone, Opderbeck emailed him a draft complaint as "a final effort to resolve this matter amicably" and asked that the board agree to supply attachments along with the agendas posted on its website.

The board initially seemed agreeable, but when it finally took up the issue at the Sept. 17 meeting, some members wanted exceptions and expressed concern about "overloading" the public with information and copying costs.

Opderbeck argued there would be no added costs because the documents already had to be scanned for board members, but on Oct. 15, the board voted not to amend the policy.

Opderbeck's next move was an Oct. 16 OPRA request asking the board to mail him its agendas, including "all attachments, appendices and related records" when it distributes them to members prior to each meeting.

The board refused, saying he was asking for documents before they existed and the request "would exist in perpetuity."

The complaint was filed on Nov. 1, and Doyne heard oral argument on Monday.

Doyne called the attachments "not simply supplemental" but "an integral element necessary to understand the agenda" and concluded they were necessary to provide legally adequate notice.

He said he did not understand the objection given that the surrounding school districts of Ridgewood, Waldwick and Wyckoff provide the attachments, and he saw the process as requiring only one additional step to ensure that privileged and exempt documents are not posted.

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