OPMA Case Challenges “Secret Voting”

On July 27, 2018, a Princeton couple filed an Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”) lawsuit against the Princeton Board of Education, captioned Schwartz and O’Hara v. Princeton Board of Education, Docket No. L-001582-18 and pending in Superior Court, Mercer County.  A detailed article in Planet Princeton, which brought the case to our attention, is here.

OPMA lawsuits are rare.  This lawsuit raises a unique issue:  whether the Board violated OPMA when individual votes of its members were not announced to the public at the time of the vote.  Rather, as alleged in the verified complaint, the votes were recorded on laptops or other computerized devices.  According to the verified complaint, although the  Board President would announce that a particular measure had passed, there was no way for those who attended the meeting to know how each individual member had voted or what the final vote tally was.

It’s too soon to know how the Princeton Board of Education will react to this lawsuit or how or even whether they will defend it.  Based on our review of what has been filed so far, we would be surprised if the Court upholds the practice of not reporting vote tallies and individual votes at the time they are cast.  Any other holding would deprive the public of critical information.

If you have a question about the OPMA, New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act or any other legal issue, call us at 908-894-5656 or email us at info@luerslaw.

(c) Copyright Law Offices of Walter M. Luers, LLC

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