Township clerk slapped but not fined in open records case

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    WEST MILFORD — Township Clerk Kevin Byrnes received a slap on the wrist for negligence, but the Government Records Council ruled in his favor on Thursday, May 12, deciding he did not "knowing and willfully" violate the Open Public Records Act. The case stems from a complaint filed by West Milford resident Martin O'Shea. O'Shea had requested records regarding the hiring of former Township Attorney William DeMarco in January of 2004. In accordance with the Open Public Records Act, Byrnes — as custodian of records — should have responded to the request within seven days. When Brynes did not comply with the law, O'Shea filed a complaint with the Government Records Council, whose job it is to enforce the Open Record Act, saying Bynes was guilty of "knowing and willfully" withholding the documents. This language is written into the act and if someone is found guilty of "knowing and willfully" withholding records, they can be fined $1000. The law has been on the books for three years, but as of yet, the council hasn't levied the fine against any records custodian. The council acknowledged that Byrnes did not respond properly, but decided by unanimous vote that there was no evidence his disregard for the law was on purpose. O'Shea is currently involved in litigation with the school district as well. He has two suits pending, one involving the business administrator's hand written notes and the other over minutes of an executive session