On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-1752-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Reisner and Simonelli.
By leave granted, defendant Paul Camella appeals from a September 2, 2011 order, denying his summary judgment motion seeking dismissal of a defamation complaint filed by plaintiff Robert Rosenblatt. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the order on appeal, and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.
These are the undisputed facts. As of October 4, 2010, Camella and Rosenblatt were both members of the Woodcliff Lake Borough Council. Rosenblatt was running for re-election. Camella obtained a copy of a July 6, 2010 e-mail to Rosenblatt from a local political activist named Kevin O'Brien. A fair reading of O'Brien's e-mail would lead a reader to the reasonable conclusion that O'Brien was offering Rosenblatt campaign advice. The text of the e-mail, which was labeled "RE: idea," began: "Your election . . . you[r] call." The full text is as follows:
From: Kevin O'Brien [email address] Date: July 6, 2010 6:05:51 AM EDT To: Bob Rosenblatt [email address] Subject: RE: idea
Your election . . . you[r] call. Your approach as conveyed in my view, is way too wordy! Cut to the chase . . .
Print out each on [separate] pieces of paper. Hand them to someone and get their input as to which is clearer and more easily understood.
Will you keep the readers['] interest for the entire piece?
Bader wrote Woodcliff Lake is . . . "my Borough" . . . do we really want a power control freak on the Town Council?
Bader wrote he had no knowledge of the yearly audit that caught Joanne Howley!
Bader critical of Jo Higgins, his opponent in the November election, wrote on X/X/X "she refers to a pool registration issue which I [too], have no knowledge of." Howley pool registration had been the target of an investigation and council discussion since Jan[.] 2010!
At the October 4 Council meeting, Camella read a written statement that he had prepared, and he distributed copies of the statement and the e-mail to his fellow Council members. He also distributed copies of both documents to ...