The New Jersey School Boards Association has complied with the state’s Open Public Records Act since the law’s enactment in 2001. NJSBA also adheres to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.
“As a statutorily created, publicly financed organization, NJSBA has always recognized its responsibility to comply with state laws designed to ensure access to public records and accountability in the use of public funds,” explained Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA executive director.
Bilik’s statement followed an Aug. 23 state Supreme Court decision, which held that an organization similar to NJSBA fits the definition of a public agency that is required to comply with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). NJSBA did not participate in the case. But while the court’s ruling has no impact on NJSBA operations – since the Association has always complied with OPRA – it does serve as validation of NJSBA’s decision to conform to laws governing publicly funded agencies.
Definition of Public Agency In Fair Share Housing Center, Inc. v. New Jersey State League of Municipalities, the court ruled that the League is a public agency by virtue of its public financing, its creation by political subdivisions, and its authorization by an act of the state Legislature.
“The League's governing board consists of various elected municipal officials, its budget is partly financed through public funds, and its employees are members of the Public Employees' Retirement System,” wrote Justice Barry Albin in the court’s unanimous opinion.
At issue was whether or not the League is a public agency that possesses government records within the meaning of the Open Public Records Act. The League held that it is not a traditional government agency and, therefore, is not required to release certain correspondence and studies requested by the housing center.
The Supreme Court disagreed with the League’s argument concerning its responsibility to comply with OPRA, overturning a lower court decision.
“The League meets the definition of a public agency for OPRA purposes – it is an ‘instrumentality ... created by … political subdivisions.’ As a public agency, the League must make available government documents as required by OPRA,” wrote Albin.
The Supreme Court remanded the case to trial court “to determine whether the documents requested by the Fair Share Housing Center fall within the class of documents that must be made available under OPRA."