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Gilleran v. Township of Bloomfield

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

May 13, 2015

PATRICIA GILLERAN, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
THE TOWNSHIP OF BLOOMFIELD and LOUISE M. PALAGANO, in her capacity as Records Custodian for the Township of Bloomfield, Defendants-Appellants

Argued: February 25, 2015.

Approved for Publication May 13, 2015.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-3459-14.

Steven J. Martino, Assistant Director of Law, argued the cause for appellants (Law Department, Township of Bloomfield, attorneys; Mr. Martino, on the brief).

CJ Griffin argued the cause for respondent ( Pashman Stein, attorneys; Ms. Griffin, of counsel and on the brief).

Stuart A. Youngs argued the cause for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey ( Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti, L.L.P., attorneys, Lance J. Kalik, of counsel; Mr. Young, on the brief).

Before Judges ASHRAFI, KENNEDY, and O'CONNOR. The opinion of the court was delivered by ASHRAFI, J.A.D.

OPINION

Page 781

[440 N.J.Super. 492] ASHRAFI, J.A.D.

The Township of Bloomfield and its Records Custodian appeal by our leave from an order of the Law Division finding that they violated New Jersey's Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to -13 (OPRA). The order requires that they disclose to plaintiff Patricia Gilleran security video recordings from a stationary camera located on the back of Bloomfield's municipal building (" Town Hall" ). We affirm.

On April 7, 2014, Gilleran made a written OPRA request for video recordings from the designated security camera for a five-day period. The camera is focused on the Mayor's parking space and also on the rear door of Town Hall. Gilleran explained that she was looking for video recordings of a specific person entering or leaving the building. After further discussion with a municipal official, Gilleran voluntarily reduced her request to one day of recordings, March 31, 2014, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. She said she would provide a hard drive to copy the recordings in native format.

On April 11, 2014, Bloomfield denied Gilleran's request, citing N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1. It claimed the recordings were not government records subject to disclosure under OPRA because they are confidential " emergency or security information or procedures for [440 N.J.Super. 493] any buildings or facility which, if disclosed, would jeopardize security of the building or facility or persons therein . . . ." Ibid.

On May 14, 2014, Gilleran filed a verified complaint in the Superior Court, Law Division, and obtained an order to show cause. In her submissions to the court, Gilleran claimed the recordings will reveal " high-level Democratic officials and other politicians visiting the Municipal Building on an almost daily basis and having an influence upon the Town Administrators." In response, Bloomfield submitted a certification of the Township Administrator, Ted Ehrenburg. After its introductory paragraphs, the certification stated in its entirety:

3. . . . The camera from which the video was requested is located on the rear of Town Hall on the second story. Without revealing security information, the camera provides security for Town Hall and/or the Law Enforcement Building adjacent to Town Hall.
4. The cameras are strategically placed and smoked glass is placed over the cameras so that the public does not know the area that is being surveilled.
5. Allowing access by the public to the video surveillance would defeat the entire purpose of having security cameras on Town Hall.
6. Again, without revealing security information, the area which is potentially surveilled is not only used by public employees but Police Officers who report to and from work, confidential informants who are brought into the Police Station, witnesses who are brought into the ...

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