An attempt by a local government rival to obtain a copy of a campaign e-mail list using the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) potentially has statewide significance to local elected officials – and a warning to those officials to be careful when they are represented by counsel who work for their political opponents.
The state Government Records Council (GRC) has found that a campaign e-mail list maintained by Rockaway Township Councilman-At-Large Jeremy Jedynak is not subject to an OPRA request, despite former Councilman Frank Berman’s repeated attempts to obtain it. The GDC says that Jedynak produced an online campaign newsletter and did not utilize any government resources in doing so.
“The totality of the circumstances shows that the newsletter was explicitly political in nature, and that the e-mail addresses receiving the newsletter were obtained and maintained by Councilman Jedynak campaign committee, and not a public agency,” staff attorney Samuel A. Rosado wrote in a GRC decision.
Berman, who was defeated for re-election in the Republican primary last year, filed an OPRA request with the Township Clerk in 2016 seeking records related to Jedynak’s political campaign. Jedynak advised the clerk that he had no official records that were responsive to the request, causing Berman to file a complaint with the GRC.
The GRC decision says Jedynak was represented by the township attorney, John M. Iaciofano, but the councilman says that Iaciofano never made him aware of the complaint or decision.
Jedynak found out about the February 27 decision after researching a litigation inventory received on March 9th that the council had requested in January. In his June 2016 response to the OPRA request, obtained by the New Jersey Globe, Jedynak says Berman is a self-described political opponent and that this was the third set of OPRA requests made about him, and suggests that the Best and Iaciofano “actively excluded Mr. Jedynak from their discussions, written correspondence and emails (by redaction) regarding Mr. Berman’s requests related to Mr. Jedynak, and have cited attorney-client privilege and consultative/deliberative exceptions as the reasons for withholding these from Mr. Jedynak, despite multiple requests for these by Mr. Jedynak as an elected Councilman of Rockaway Township and under OPRA.”
Sources say that a split among Rockaway Republicans has left Jedynak represented by an attorney that he neither chose or trusts.Government Records Council - Jedynak