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D''elena v. Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders

Decided: July 25, 1985.

RICHARD D'ELENA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRESIDENT OF BURLINGTON COUNTY COUNCIL # 16 OF NJCSA, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
BURLINGTON COUNTY BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County.

Matthews, Furman and Havey. The opinion of the court was delivered by Matthews, P.J.A.D.

Matthews

Plaintiff instituted this action in lieu of prerogative writs to compel the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders to release the names and home addresses of its employees under the Right to Know Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq. The trial judge granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and ruled that this list was a public record under that act.

The Burlington County Board has approximately 1,593 employees; 1,448 classified employees and 145 unclassified. On March 15, 1984 the Business Administrator of Burlington Council # 16 NJCSA, CWA Local 1044, wrote to the Clerk of the County of Burlington, requesting a list "showing employees' addresses."

On March 21, 1984, plaintiff, as president of Burlington Council # 16, wrote to Steven Raymond, the Burlington County prosecutor, stating that Burlington Council # 16 had become affiliated with another union and it was "necessary to update our bargaining unit records." He requested a list of "all employees in our bargaining unit (members and non-members), including each employees' [ sic ] department number, social security number and home address." John A. Sweeney, attorney

for plaintiff, also requested such a list in a letter written to Juliana on April 18, 1984, and a letter to Cynthia Nadolski, defendant's attorney, on May 4, 1984.

On May 17, 1984, Nadolski wrote to Sweeney responding to his request. She stated that the board had met and decided not to release the list on the grounds that (1) the information was not a "public record" as defined by the Right to Know Act, and (2) release of the information would be an "invasion of personal privacy." As a compromise to allow plaintiff to receive the information by "less intrusive means," the board suggested sending a letter to each employee informing him or her that Council # 16 wanted the information and asking their permission to release it. This letter would be included in the employees' paycheck.

On June 5, 1984 plaintiff instituted this action and moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleged that he was a citizen who had been refused a copy of a list of the board's employees' names and home addresses, which list the board "is required by law to maintain and/or does maintain." He alleged that the board's refusal to release this list violated the act. Plaintiff asked for a judgment directing the board to provide this list and for taxed costs and counsel fees.

On June 18, 1984, the Law Division judge issued a letter opinion granting plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. He ruled that while no law had been pointed out requiring the board to keep a list of its employees' names and home addresses, the list obviously existed and should be released even if it was not a record required to be kept within the meaning of the act. He restricted plaintiff's use of the list "for his own purposes, as an individual and as a union official."

On June 7, 1984, defendant had moved for an order allowing it to notify its employees that plaintiff had filed a complaint to compel release of their names and addresses. After a hearing the judge reserved decision. In his letter opinion, he stated that it was "my opinion that the County has a right to provide

such notice without a court Order." Therefore, he approved an order authorizing, but not requiring notice, and withheld execution of the order until July 27, 1984. On July 24, 1984, an order was entered granting ...


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