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PASHMAN STEIN WALDER HAYDEN

A Professional Corporation
Court Plaza South
21 Main Street, Suite 100
Hackensack, NJ 07601
(201) 488-8200
CJ GRIFFIN, ESQ. (#031422009)
Attorneys for Plaintiff,
Gavin C. Rozzi
GAVIN ROZZI,

:
:
Plaintiff,
:
:
v.
:
:
BOROUGH OF SEASIDE PARK and
:
KAREN BARNA, in her capacity as Borough
:
Clerk and Records Custodian for the Borough of :
Seaside Park,
:
:
Defendants.
:
:

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY


LAW DIVISION: OCEAN COUNTY
DOCKET NO:
Civil Action
VERIFIED COMPLAINT

Plaintiff, Gavin Rozzi, through his undersigned counsel, Pashman Stein Walder Hayden,
A Professional Corporation, complains against the Defendants as follows:
1.

This is an action alleging violation of the New Jersey Open Public Records Act,

N.J.S.A. 47: 1A-1 to -13, (OPRA), and the common law right of access to public records.
2.

Plaintiff brings this action because Defendants have unlawfully denied Plaintiff

access to several government records which were subject of an OPRA request.


PARTIES
3.

Plaintiff Gavin Rozzi is a New Jersey resident with a mailing address of P.O. Box

32, Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey.

4.

Defendant Borough of Seaside Park (Seaside Park) is a municipal entity formed

under the laws of the State of New Jersey, with a primary place of business at 1701 North Ocean
Avenue, Seaside Park, New Jersey 08752.
5.

Defendant Karen Barna (Barna) is the Records Custodian for Defendant

Seaside. The Custodian maintains an office at 1701 North Ocean Avenue, Seaside Park, New
Jersey 08752.
VENUE
6.

Venue is properly laid in Ocean County because Defendant Seaside Park is

located in Ocean County and because the cause of action arose in Ocean County.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
7.

Plaintiff is the editor & publisher of Ocean County Politics, an online news

website published at PoliticsOC.com. Ocean County Politics is a free an independent online


media outlet operated by Plaintiff, featuring public interest journalism & commentary. Plaintiffs
reporting focuses on the inner workings of county and municipal governments and actions of
public officials in the Ocean County, New Jersey area.
8.

On July 30, 2016, Plaintiff submitted a request to Seaside Park via facsimile

seeking the following records pursuant to OPRA and the common law right of access:
1. Copy of complaint served on Borough: Juan Bellu v. Borough
of Seaside Park Planning Board, Docket No. OCN-L-00356615
2. Copy of stipulation of settlement filed on behalf of Borough of
Seaside Park in the above case, and a copy of the settlement
agreement executed with Juan Bellu.
[Attached hereto as Exhibit A is a true and accurate copy of
Plaintiffs OPRA Request and the fax confirmation sheet which
confirms the request was received.]

9.

The week of August 19th, 2016, Plaintiff called the Custodians office and advised

him that no one had responded to his OPRA request. The person who answered the phone
indicated that she would take a message and that someone would get back to him. Plaintiff never
received a phone call or any other correspondence from the Custodian.
10.

On August 29, 2016, Plaintiff called the Custodians office once again to

complain that he had still not received a response to his OPRA request. The person who
answered the phone informed him that the Custodian would be contacting him. Plaintiff never
received a phone call or any other correspondence from the Custodian.
11.

On August 29, 2016, Plaintiff faxed a letter to the Custodian telling her that he

had twice called her office to follow up on his overdue OPRA request. He advised that if he did
not receive a response, he might take legal action against the Borough for failure to respond to an
OPRA request. [Attached hereto as Exhibit B is a true and accurate copy of Plaintiffs August
27, 2016 fax to the Custodian, along with the fax confirmation page confirming that the letter
was received.]
12.

To date, Defendants have not responded to Plaintiffs OPRA request, nor released

any records responsive to Plaintiffs OPRA request.


FIRST COUNT
(Violation of OPRA)
13.

Plaintiff repeats and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in the

preceding paragraphs as though fully set forth at length herein.


14.

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1, all government records must be readily

accessible to the citizen of this State unless specifically exempt by law.


15.

Plaintiff submitted a valid OPRA request.

16.

The records requested by Plaintiff are government records subject to OPRA

because they were made, maintained or kept on file, or received in the course of
[Defendants] official business. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1.
17.

The records requested by Plaintiff do not fall under any lawful exemption

recognized by the OPRA statute.


18.

OPRA requires the custodian to grant or deny access to public records as soon as

possible, but not later than seven business days. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(i).
19.

The failure to respond to an OPRA request within seven business days constitutes

a deemed denial of the request. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(i).


20.

Defendants did not respond to Plaintiffs OPRA request, despite repeated follow

up measures from Plaintiff.


21.

Accordingly, Defendants have violated OPRA by failing to respond to Plaintiff

and failing to grant Plaintiff access to the records that are subject of his OPRA request.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment against Defendants:
(a)

Declaring said actions of Defendants to be in violation of OPRA, N.J.S.A.


47:1A-1 et seq. by failing to respond to Plaintiffs OPRA request and
failing to provide access to the requested records, as required by OPRA;

(b)

Directing Defendants to release the requested records to Plaintiff


forthwith. Alternatively, if the Court believes that any information is
exempt from public access, Plaintiff respectfully asks the Court to review
the record in camera review and then require Defendants to delete or
excise from the records the portion(s) which are exempt from public
access and promptly permit access to the remainder of the records;

(c)

Awarding counsel fees and costs pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6; and

(d)

For such other relief as the Court may deem just and equitable.

SECOND COUNT
(Common Law Right of Access)
22.

Plaintiff repeats and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in the

preceding paragraphs as though fully set forth at length herein.


23.

The public has a significant interest in knowing details about litigation filed

against public agencies, as well as the settlement of such litigation.


24.

The publics need for access to these records is greater than Defendants need for

secrecy.
25.

Defendants failure to disclose the requested government records violated

Plaintiffs common law right of access.


WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment against Defendants:
(a) Declaring said actions of Defendants to be unlawful and invalid;
(b) Directing Defendants to release the requested records to Plaintiff forthwith;
(c) Awarding counsel fees and costs; and
(d) Granting such other relief as the Court may deem just and equitable.

PASHMAN STEIN WALDER HAYDEN


A Professional Corporation,
Attorneys for Plaintiff,
Gavin Rozzi
Dated: September 18, 2016

By: ____________________________
CJ GRIFFIN, ESQ.

CERTIFICATION PURSUANT TO R. 4:5-1


Plaintiff, by his attorney, hereby certifies that the matter in controversy is not the subject
of any other action pending in any Court and is likewise not the subject of any pending
arbitration proceeding. Plaintiff further certifies that he has no knowledge of any contemplated
action or arbitration regarding the subject matter of this action and that Plaintiff is not aware of
any other parties who should be joined in this action.
PASHMAN STEIN WALDER HAYDEN
A Professional Corporation,
Attorneys for Plaintiff,
Gavin Rozzi
Dated: September 18, 2016

By: _____________________________
CJ GRIFFIN, ESQ

CERTIFICATION OF FAX/ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE


CJ Griffin, Esq., of full age, certifies and says as follows:
1.

I am an attorney at law with the law firm of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden,

P.C. I make this certification of the genuineness of the electronic signature of Gavin Rozzi.
2.

I hereby certify that Mr. Rozzi acknowledge to me the genuineness of his

signature on the foregoing Certification.


I certify that the foregoing statements made by me are true. I am aware that if any of the
foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, I am subject to punishment.
PASHMAN STEIN WALDER HAYDEN
A Professional Corporation,
Attorneys for Plaintiff,
Gavin Rozzi
Dated: September 18, 2016

By: _____________________________
CJ GRIFFIN, ESQ

VERIFICATION
Gavin Rozzi, of full age, deposes and says:
1.

I am a citizen of the State of New Jersey, Plaintiff in the foregoing Verified

Complaint.
2.

I have read the Verified Complaint. The allegations of the Verified Complaint

contained in Paragraphs 3-12 are true. The said Verified Complaint is based on personal
knowledge and is made in truth and good faith and without collusion, for the causes set forth
herein.
3.

All documents attached to the Verified Complaint and Brief are true copies and

have not been redacted, changed, modified, adjusted or otherwise altered in any manner by me or
my agents unless so stated.
I certify that the foregoing statements made by me are true. I am aware that if any of the
foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, I am subject to punishment.

_________________________________
Gavin Rozzi
Dated: September 18, 2016