In the great state of New Jersey, Irvington Township has filed suit against Elouise McDaniel for making 75 public records requests over a period of 2 years. The township is also filing over what they consider to be frivolous complaints with a state agency, about the Town's mayor and administration.
This sounds like retaliation and an attempt to chill an outspoken local, but the NJ.com article also suggests at a feud with the Mayor and perhaps civic employees.
"It's especially ludicrous that they're saying she filed 75 OPRA requests in three years," said CJ Griffin, a Hackensack attorney who focuses on public records access. "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.
"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 10. 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."
McDaniel, an Irvington resident who taught in Newark for 31 years before retiring in the early 2000s, said if she loses the lawsuit, she will be concerned about the precedent that could be set for residents who send in public records requests.
The town also complains that McDaniel is overzealous at public meetings and had threatened "to get someone" and that the gotten person would "pay." The costs of responding to McDaniel's antics are too costly for the town to bear, and so they have sued.
The township notes several incidents in the civil lawsuit. Among them, McDaniel allegedly pointing to a township councilperson in December 2017 and saying, "I'm going to get you and you're going to pay."
In "numerous" council meetings, McDaniel "often (disturbs) the peace and otherwise (acts) in a confrontational and harassing manner," reads another excerpt from the suit.
McDaniel denied both claims.
"As a direct and proximate result of (McDaniel's) abusive conduct, (the township has) been forced to incur unnecessary legal fees for services rendered to defend against and respond to plaintiff's claims and requests and were also forced to incur loss of municipal personnel time and related expenses," it is stated in the suit.