The article that was published in the Secaucus Reporter on March 6 was misleading and erroneous. Suit was filed because the Town of Secaucus and Gonnelli administration have refused to release information showing waste of taxpayer dollars. Four separate OPRA (Open Public Records Act) requests were submitted, not one as reported. The Town was required to respond in writing to each of my requests within 7 business days. I filed suit on Oct. 5, 2010.
The following summarizes the information requested from 2007 through September 2010: (1) which Town of Secaucus employees have a town vehicle given or assigned to them on a regular / daily basis? (2) What is the make, model, license plate number and vehicle identification number assigned to each employee? (3) What is the EZ Pass tag / transponder number assigned to each employee’s vehicle? (4) Where are the vehicles garaged at night and on weekends? (5) Which employees have a Town of Secaucus cell phone(s) on a daily basis? Want to review all cell phones. (6) Which employees have submitted mileage vouchers and I want to review same. (7) Which employees have submitted vouchers for toll and gas receipts and I want to review same.
The Town Administrator told me in a meeting on Sept. 22 that he would supply me with the requested information, he never did. Mayor Gonnelli told me many times the Town of Secaucus had nothing to hide, and that he would get me the information requested, he never did. The Town Administrator says I am angry. He is definitely wrong. I am frustrated with not receiving the information I am legally entitled to through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), and seeing the taxpayer’s money wasted. On Nov. 29, 38 business days after my lawsuit was filed, I received copies of the cell phone bills I requested on Sept. 21, 2010. If the lawsuit was not filed, that information would never have been provided.
The town administrator reported that Secaucus has spent $10,000 in legal costs to prevent giving me the requested information.
The town attorneys tried to have my lawsuit dismissed. Judge DeCastro ruled in my favor and denied the dismissal and ordered the town attorneys to have the Town of Secaucus respond in writing to my requests per OPRA. Instead of complying with the order, the town attorneys merely recited points from their failed request to dismiss the lawsuit. The Gonnelli administration did not supply 6 boxes of documents, but only 2 boxes. I did not ask to have the data distilled into organized files and collated, I would be more than happy to go through the files and take copies of what I was looking for and put the information together.
Questions: Why did the Gonnelli administration spend $10,000 to not release information that all citizens are entitled to? Didn’t Mayor Gonnelli and his Take Back Secaucus team advocate an open and transparent government? Where is it?
Peter M. Weiner