In September 2018, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of long-time client Steven Wronko seeking the list of users that Carteret Mayor Daniel J. Reiman has banned from his Facebook page.
Carteret opposed the lawsuit, arguing that Mayor Reiman’s Facebook page was simply a personal page and that he has constitutional right to ban members of the public and a privacy interest in keeping the ban list secret.
We responded and provided over 200 pages of screenshots from the Mayor’s Facebook page which showed that Mayor Reiman used his Facebook page to declare weather emergencies and keep the public informed during severe weather events; to talk about redevelopment projects happening in the Borough; and to discuss personnel issues, such as the suspension of a police officer. We also showed that residents frequently posted on the Page about issues they were having with government services and Mayor Reiman or “staff” would respond to those inquiries and try to resolve the issues. Our brief is available here.
On January 11, 2019, the Honorable Alberto Rivas, A.J.S.C., heard oral arguments and found that Mayor Reiman’s Facebook page is subject to OPRA because it is used to conduct the Mayor’s official business. He adopted the fact-sensitive analysis used by Judge Mizdol in Larkin v. Glen Rock, a similar case we won last year.
Judge Rivas ordered Carteret to produce the ban list and to pay Mr. Wronko’s legal fees. A copy of the Order is here.
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Tagged CJ Griffin, Facebook, facebook and opra, foil, nj opra attorney, njopra, opra, opra attorney, public records
We previously wrote about an OPRA lawsuit we filed on behalf of citizen seeking a list of users that various public officials from Glen Rock have blocked from their official Facebook accounts. Today we are happy to report that the suit was successful.
In Larkin v. Glen Rock, the Honorable Bonnie J. Mizdol, A.J.S.C., ruled that the lists of blocked users from each of the Facebook pages in questions were “government records” that are subject to access under OPRA. In her 23-page opinion, the judge noted that there is no “one-size-fit-all” approach to determine whether a particular Facebook account falls within OPRA’s scope. Rather, she applied a “fact-sensitive review” of the Facebook pages at issue to conclude that they were indeed subject to OPRA. Among other things, the judge noted that:
- The mayor and each council member’s Facebook pages “clearly identified them as elected members of the Glen Rock governing body”
- Each page was “separate and distinct from their personal, friends and family Facebook pages”
- Each page was used for “discussing matters directly pending before the Mayor and Council,” including topics such as “ordinances, resolutions, budgets, and committees on which the Mayor or council member serves.”
- The posts on each page “shared ideas, answered questions and interacted with constituents and the public at large about the Borough’s official business”
- The Borough’s website had linked to the Facebook pages
- The officials encouraged the public to “like” the pages in order to get information about the Borough’s business
The court also rejected Glen Rock’s argument that those who were blocked by the public officials had a right to privacy.