Re: Lady Liberty Academy Charter School; Open Government Violations
Dear Mr. Pinder,
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (“ACLU-NJ”) was recently contacted by an anonymous requester of public records about the open government practices of the Lady Liberty Academy Charter School (“Lady Liberty”). Since that time, the ACLU-NJ has been monitoring various requests for public documents submitted to the school and has reviewed the responses provided. I am writing to inform you that Lady Liberty has violated several provisions of the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”), N.J.S.A. 42:1A-1 et seq. and the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”), N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 et seq., and appears to have taken affirmative steps to obstruct access to public information.
Since the ACLU-NJ was first contacted in February 2010, we have heard from various sources about the disconcerting open government practices of Lady Liberty, including that requests for public records, such as Board of Trustees (“Board”) meeting minutes or school policies, are routinely ignored or denied for reasons that do not comply with the law. We also understand that Lady Liberty implemented a policy requiring requesters to submit OPRA request forms and that anonymous requests must specifically be submitted in person, thereby preventing the ability of requesters to remain anonymous. The policy appears to have been implemented soley to determine the identity of anonymous requesters. Such actions, if true, are unlawful and antithetical to the practices of open government…
As the weeks have turned into months, we continue to receive complaints about Lady Liberty’s open government practices, and through it all, the simple truth remains: Actions taken to obstruct access to public records and meetings put Lady Liberty at great risk for lawsuits. And frankly, it does not reflect positively on a school that is named after our nation’s foremost symbol for freedom and democracy…
…the ACLU-NJ will continue to monitor its [Lady Liberty’s] open governance practices indefinitely, and assess whether legal action is appropriate...
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Lady Liberty Academy Charter School
Letter from the NJ ACLU to the Executive Director of Lady Liberty Academy Charter School in Newark, New Jersey (June 4, 2010)