The city hired Kate Gilfillan of Schenck Price Smith & King with a one-year contract not to exceed $20,000 to handle defending against Mason’s suit. Law relating to the Open Public Records Act is apparently an area of expertise for Gilfillan.
Mason’s suit concerns a series of invoices billed to the city by the law firm Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader between January and October of last year, which the councilwoman requested apparently in an effort to continue her personal investigation into Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla, who took a partnership with the firm in August. (Bhalla has stated that he began abstaining on all votes relating to the firm after he was hired, a claim that was substantiated by city records.)
But when the city complied with Mason’s request, filed through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), the files she received were redacted to the point of uselessness, NJ.com reported. Mason was billed $130 for the documents, but “all but a few verbs” were blacked out. According to Mason’s lawyer, Jeffrey Kantowitz, the amount redacted exceeds what is allowed by attorney-client privilege laws.
City spokesman Juan Melli declined to comment on Mason’s suit, citing ongoing litigation. – Dean DeChiaro