New Jersey town sues 82-year-old resident for ‘voluminous’ information requests

New Jersey town sues 82-year-old resident for ‘voluminous’ information requests

When they’re seeking reelection, local politicians often brag about how involved they are with their communities and how they welcome community involvement from voters. But in Irvington County, New Jersey, an 82-year-old resident, Elouise McDaniel, is being sued for — among other things — filing too many information requests.

The lawsuit was first reported by NBC 4 New York on March 24, and more reporting came from NJ Advance Media’s Steven Rodas on March 29.

According to Rodas, McDaniel is “being sued” by Irving Township’s government for, “among other reasons, filing over 75 requests for township information within a three-year span via New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act.” The Irvington government, in the law, complains that “voluminous OPRA requests” have “been unduly burdensome, time consuming and expensive.”

“The township also accused McDaniel of filing ‘frivolous’ complaints about Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss’ administration with the Office of the Attorney General and other state agencies,” Rodas reports. “The complaints were submitted ‘with the sole purpose and intent to harass, abuse and harm Plaintiffs and employees of the Township, including its Mayor,’ according to the suit. McDaniel — who was accused of several counts, including defamation, harassment and malicious abuse of process — told NJ Advance Media on Monday evening, (March 28) that she has a ‘legal right’ to know the information she has requested from the town.”

Irvington Township is in Essex County in Northern New Jersey near New York City. McDaniel is a retired schoolteacher who taught in Newark, New Jersey before retiring in the early 2000s.

C.J. Griffin, an attorney based in Hackensack, New Jersey, doesn’t believe that McDaniel’s Open Public Records Act requests were excessive as the lawsuit claims. Griffin told NJ Advance Media, “It’s especially ludicrous that they’re saying she filed 75 OPRA requests in three years. That’s the equivalent of two a month. You could file two OPRA requests a month just for the meeting minutes, so it’s in no way harassing.”

Griffin added, “It would be a dangerous precedent if towns are allowed to start suing people because they file two requests a month, or even if they file ten. Reporters might need to file 20 a month, right? There’s nothing in the statute that authorizes them to do that, and it’s retaliatory.”

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