New Jersey town settles public records lawsuit for $650K
A New Jersey town has agreed to pay a media company $650,000 to settle a public records lawsuit.
Raritan's borough council voted unanimously Tuesday -- without discussion or comment -- to settle with Gannet New Jersey over litigation that was filed more than six years ago, MyCentralJersey.com reported on Wednesday. The council also voted to dismiss a lawsuit it had brought against its former payroll company.
The settlement is expected to be paid in 90 days.
Gannett New Jersey -- the parent company of the Asbury Park Press, Courier News, Daily Record and the Home News Tribune -- sued the borough over access to employee salary and overtime information. The newspapers had wanted the data in an electronic format.
The borough initially denied the records existed, then said its former payroll company, Action Data Services in Fairfield, told officials there would be an $1,100 fee to convert the data. The borough then tried to pass that fee on to Gannett.
Gannett proved during a 2012 trial that the borough had access to the records in the requested format. Action Data Services waived the fee after the trial and handed over the data.
"Open records access is vital to good governance," said Paul Grzella, general manager and editor of the Courier News, the Home News Tribune and MyCentralJersey.com. "We have pursued this matter for so many years because of this simple fact, and will continue to work diligently on behalf of the community we serve."
Thomas Cafferty, attorney for Gannett New Jersey, the owner of the Courier News, MyCentralJersey.com and five other New Jersey newspapers, said the newspapers are pleased the town resolved the case.
Mayor Charles McMullin had pledged to make the settlement a top priority in January.
"The Gannett lawsuit should have never happened," McMullin said.
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