As reported by nj.com, an open-government activist is suing Ewing Township for allegedly violating the Open Public Records Act by refusing to disclose part of a police officer’s salary. John Paff, the chairman of the Open Government Advocacy Project of the State Libertarian Party, said that he heard from confidential sources that Ewing was withholding payroll information that is supposed to be open to the public.
Paff, a Somerset County resident, said he is working to resist efforts by local governments to decrease transparency. “This is a case where they’re trying to close the door a little bit and we’re trying to push it back open,” he said.
In June, after hearing that Ewing was not properly disclosing information related to “extra pay” of police officers, Paff said he picked one officer at random and requested his complete 2012 salary information, broken down into different categories: regular pay, overtime pay, longevity pay, and extra pay.
Extra pay is different from off-duty pay, Paff said. Off-duty pay is what a police officer makes when he works at a job unrelated to his official work, such as serving as a bouncer at a bar. Extra pay is what an officer makes when a contractor pays the town to have a police officer work in his official capacity such as when officers handle traffic at a construction site, he said.
Ewing sent the officer’s salary information to Paff, but redacted the extra pay information. Paff said he then informed them that if they did not provide what he believed was public information, he would sue. Last week he announced on his website, NJ Open Government Notes, that he filed suit. “This is an ongoing battle between people who want access and people who want secrecy,” he said.
In addition to suing for access, Paff is also suing to cover the cost of the legal fees and filing costs for this suit the Complaint said. Paff won a lawsuit against Lawrence earlier this year after the town refused to disclose terms of a settlement between a former police officer and the police department.