On appeal from Division of State Police.
King, Brody and Ashbey. The opinion of the court was delivered by Brody, J.A.D.
[232 NJSuper Page 459] Appellants are newspaper publishers who appeal from a ruling by the Superintendent of State Police that they are not entitled to copies of records that disclose details of the use of state-owned helicopters by Governor Kean and former Attorney General Edwards. The Superintendent based his ruling on the need to keep the information secret because terrorists might
use it to plan the assassination of these officials. Appellants contend that they are entitled to the records under the Right to Know Law (N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq.), the common law and the federal and State constitutions. We reverse the Superintendent.
Appellants' newspapers ran stories for several weeks that were prompted by the State's purchase of a 4.3 million dollar helicopter to be used by the Governor for official and unofficial travel. The tenor of the articles was that the purchase was an extravagance. Spokesmen for the Governor were quoted as stating that he reimbursed the State treasury for his use of state-owned helicopters for personal or political travel. One of the articles reported that Attorney General Edwards, citing his concern for security, denied the press copies of records that would disclose details of the Governor's use of the helicopters and records that would disclose when and in what amount he reimbursed the State when he used them for unofficial travel. In questioning the need for secrecy in these matters, the newspaper accounts pointed out that the governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York routinely provide such information to the media.
Pursuant to an agreement with the Attorney General's office, appellants' attorneys made a formal written request for copies of the records with the understanding that it would be submitted to the Superintendent and that his decision would constitute final administrative action appealable to this court pursuant to R. 2:2-3(a)(2).*fn1 The request included a demand for access to records of the Attorney General's use as well as the Governor's use of state-owned helicopters. The requested documents are described in the written request as
(a) The dates, from September 1, 1985 to present, on which Governor Kean traveled in a state-owned or operated helicopter;
(b) The dates, from September 1, 1985 to present, on which Attorney General Edwards traveled in a state-owned or operated helicopter;
(c) The flight logs, or other documents which record the length of time of, and distance traveled on, each such flight as well as the place of departure and destination;
(d) For each such trip, the identities of all passengers on the helicopter;
(e) For each such trip, identification of which state-owned or operated ...