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Charles Fairchild v. Township of East Windsor


April 7, 2011


On appeal from the New Jersey Government Records Council, Complaint No. 2009-252. Charles Fairchild, appellant pro se.

Per curiam.


Submitted March 28, 2011

Before Judges Lisa and Ostrer.

Appellant, Charles Fairchild, submitted two requests, dated September 10, 2008 and October 9, 2008, to the Tax Assessor's Office of East Windsor Township, requesting copies of the complete property tax file to his home. The requests were made pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to -13. The Township Clerk responded to appellant's requests on September 16, 2008 and October 17, 2008, respectively, by transmitting copies of documents from appellant's tax file.

Dissatisfied with the responses, and questioning their completeness, appellant filed a complaint on September 1, 2009 with the New Jersey Government Records Council (GRC). In response, on September 28, 2009, the Township Clerk filed with the GRC a Statement of Information Form, certifying that all records in appellant's tax file were provided to appellant, in their entirety, without redactions.

On May 27, 2010, the GRC, after investigating appellant's complaint and reviewing all materials submitted by both parties, issued its final determination. The GRC concluded that all records covered by appellant's OPRA request had been provided to him in a timely manner, and that appellant failed to provide any evidence to contradict the certification to that effect submitted by the Township Clerk. Accordingly, the GRC dismissed the complaint. This appeal followed.

Appellant argues that he did provide evidence to establish that documents were withheld. Most notably, he contends that two particular items, namely, copies of a construction permit and construction certificate, which had been issued by the Township Construction Official, should have been in his tax file, because the distribution notations on those documents indicate that the pink copy should be sent to the Tax Assessor. Indeed, appellant has copies of those very documents, having previously received them from the Township in response to his request. The Township contends that those documents were furnished to appellant from the Construction Office file, and that copies simply are not maintained in the Tax Assessor's office.

Our scope of review of a final agency decision or action is extremely limited. We will not upset the ultimate determination of an agency unless shown that it was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, or that it violated legislative policies expressed or implied in the act governing the agency, or that the decision was based on findings that are not supported by the record. Campbell v. Dep't of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963). "The burden of demonstrating that the agency's action was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable rests upon the [party] challenging the administrative action." In re Arenas, 385 N.J. Super. 440, 443-44 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 188 N.J. 219 (2006).

Applying this highly deferential standard, we are satisfied that the GRC's final determination is supported by the record and is not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. We note that the sole issue before us is appellant's challenge to the GRC's action regarding his OPRA request to the Township. Appellant's arguments relating to the correctness of his property tax assessment and his allegations of widespread irregularities pertaining to numerous properties throughout the Township are not within the scope of this appeal, and we will not address them. The arguments contained in appellant's brief do not warrant further discussion. See R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).



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