N.J. appeals court rules in favor of Mount Arlington woman seeking borough cell phone records

N.J. appeals court rules in favor of Mount Arlington woman seeking borough cell phone records

July 13, 2011 - Start-Leger

MOUNT ARLINGTON — Mount Arlington must release more records of cell phones used by municipal employees, a state appeals court ruled today.

The court rejected an appeal filed by the borough and upheld a decision by the state’s Government Records Council, which had ordered the borough to release call destinations for municipal cell phones.

The borough had released some records, but removed both the numbers called and the destinations, the court said.

The records are being sought by Gayle Ann Livecchia, a borough resident, who submitted Open Public Records Act demands for calls in September and October 2007.

Livecchia wants to know if employees used their cell phones for personal business without reimbursement and if employees — including, specifically, JoAnne Sendler, who was borough administrator at the time — made personal calls from home during working hours, the court said. She is seeking a list of the towns and states called, but has not requested the phone numbers involved, agreeing that would be a violation of privacy.

The court rejected the borough’s claims of privacy regarding the destinations, saying there is a "reasonable need for the information to challenge the misuse of public funds."

Mount Arlington Mayor Art Ondish called Livecchia’s OPRA case "a fishing expedition." He declined to discuss the use of cell phones, but added, "We are very transparent."

Livecchia’s attorney, Walter Luers, hailed the court decision. "We have a good published opinion now that sets forth a lot of good principles," he said.


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