UPDATE: APRIL 20, 2012, Mecka vs. Hudson Healthcare, Inc.

Mecka vs. Hudson Healthcare, Inc.

April 20, 2012 - Ed Mecka @ edmecka.com

Here are excerpts from Mecka vs. Hudson Healthcare, Inc., filed April 10, 2012 Hudson County Superior Court by attorney Walter Luers, LLC, Clinton, New Jersey.  

Defendant Hudson Healthcare, Inc. (“HHI”) is a domestic, nonprofit corporation under contract with the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority to act as the “manager” of the Hoboken University Medical Center in accordance with the Municipal Hospital Authority Law, N.J.S.A. 30:9-23.15 et seq.

The question presented to the Court is whether HHI is a “public agency” as defined by the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1.  As shown below, because HHI was created and is controlled by public agencies, it is absolutely a public agency within the definition of OPRA.

On August 9, 2006, the City of Hoboken determined that it was necessary for the City to have “proper representation . . . for the creation of the Municipal Hospital Authority and it’s (sic) Not For Profit Management.” (Mecka Cert. Exhibit 6) (emphasis added).   To meet this necessity, the City contracted with Attorney Frank Ciesla to create the management company’s “formation documents.”  

In apparent anticipation of the City’s resolution, Mr. Ciesla incorporated HHI and named himself as one of the three initial members of the Board of Directors. (Id., Exhibit 7.)  Contrary to the assertions made in HHI’s attorney’s March 26, 2012 letter denying that HHI is a public agency, the City of Hoboken, through its agent Frank Ciesla, created HHI.   Under Fair Share Housing Center, Inc. v. New Jersey State League of Municipalities, 207 N.J. 489 (2011) nothing more is required for this Court to conclude that HHI is an OPRA public agency.

Also relevant to Fair Share Housing’s analysis is Hoboken Mayor David Robert’s letter that was read into the record at the July 12, 2006 City Council meeting. (Mecka Cert. Exhibit 5, p. 3).  In his letter, Mayor Roberts stated:

We have already begun implementing this vision [i.e. that Hoboken “soon will have one of the finest medical facilities in the State with the latest in medical technology”] with the appointment of the highly respected and professional administrator Harvey Holzberg as President and CEO. Mr. Holzberg comes with a resume of outstanding success and accomplishments and we strongly believe that he will put St. Mary Hospital on an even greater path to remain in Hoboken for another 140 years.  (Mecka Cert. Exhibit 5, p. 3) (emphasis supplied).

Remarkably, even though neither HHI nor the Hospital Authority yet existed when the mayor authored his letter, the City of Hoboken (i.e. the “we” in Mayor Roberts’ letter) appointed Mr. Holzberg to the positions of “President and CEO.”  Not only did Hoboken cause the creation of HHI by specifically authorizing Mr. Ciesla to do so through an official resolution of Hoboken, Hoboken named its highest officer.

Which entity gained Mr. Holzberg as its president and CEO by way of the City’s appointment?  HHI’s Amended Certificate of Incorporation is signed by Mr. Holzberg in his capacity as “President/Chief Executive Officer.”  (Exhibit 9). And, Mr. Holzberg was appointed as one of HHI’s initial Directors when the original Certificate of Incorporation was filed on August 7, 2006.  Mr. Holzberg, like Mr. Ciesla, acted as City’s agent for the purposes of creating HHI.

Here, the documents sought by Plaintiff are “government records” within the meaning of OPRA.  Under OPRA, a “government record”:

means any paper, written or printed book, document, drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data processed or image processed document, information stored or maintained electronically or by sound-recording or in a similar device, or any copy thereof, that has been made, maintained or kept on file in the course of his or its official business by any officer, commission, agency or authority of the State or of any political subdivision thereof, including subordinate boards thereof, or that has been received in the course of his or its official business by any such officer, commission, agency, or authority of the State or of any political subdivision thereof, including subordinate boards thereof. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1.

Here, there is no doubt that the documents requested by Plaintiff are public records.  Plaintiff asked for copies of a Board of Directors resolution, meeting minutes and a meeting attendance list.  Since the HHI is a “public agency,” the documents maintained by it are “government records” within the definition of OPRA.  Fair Share Housing, 207 N.J. at 508.


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