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Monday, July 22, 2013

Township Clerk's rental property managed by Township Attorney's company

Today, I received a Landlord Registration Statement showing that a Fairfield Township (Cumberland County) rental property owned by Roo Roo Rentals, LLC, a corporation owned by Lawrence Township (Cumberland County) Clerk Ruth Dawson and her husband John Dawson, is being managed by TES Real Estate, LLC, which is a company owned by Lawrence Township Attorney Thomas E. Seeley.  While it does not violate any law or ethical proscription that I know of for a municipal clerk to hire the municipal attorney's company to manage her rental property, I felt that this financial connection between Dawson and Seeley would nonetheless be of interest to Lawrence residents.

Also interesting are the circumstances surrounding me obtaining the Landlord Registration Statement on the Roo Roo property.  I had originally submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for the certificate to Fairfield in January 2013.  I was informed by Fairfield Township Zoning Officer Bob Hulitt that he wasn't aware of the requirement for Landlord's to file registration statements and that there was no statement on file for Roo Roo's property at 9 Collett Drive.  I found this odd since a) the legal requirement for landlords to file registration statements has been in existence since June 25, 1974 and b) Dawson, as municipal clerk, is responsible for receiving and filing the certificates as part of her duties as municipal clerk. (N.J.S.A. 46:8-28 states that the registration statements shall be "file[d] with the clerk of the municipality, or with such other municipal official as is designated by the clerk, in which the residential property is situated.")

I refiled my OPRA request for the Landlord Registration Statement on July 3, 2013 and received it today--July 22, 2013.  The Statement is dated July 19, 2013, meaning that Dawson did not file it until after I had submitted my second OPRA request for it.

The Landlord Registration Statement, Financial Disclosure Statements for both Seeley and Dawson as well as other relevant documents are on-line here

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fairfield pays $72,500 to settle racial harassment lawsuit

On October 29, 2010, the Township of Fairfield (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $72,500 to a African-American man who sued Fairfield Township for allegedly wrongfully discharging him from Township employment.

More information and case documents are on-line here.

ABOUT ME AND WHY I'M POSTING THIS.

I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project which seeks to increase governmental transparency and accountability, particularly at a local level. For more information on the Libertarian Party, go to http://www.njlp.org.

As part of my work, I routinely check civil court cases where at least one of the parties is a government agency or official. Most often, these settlement agreements are never revealed to the public. I post them on the Libertarian Party's blog at http://njcivilsettlements.blogspot.com and other public forums because I believe that civil settlements, regardless of amount, may be of interest to citizens and taxpayers.

John Paff
Somerset, New Jersey