Irvington Township has filed a lawsuit against an 82-year-old woman, saying the retired teacher is “intimidating” administrators because she requested public records.
Elouise McDaniel, 82, recently went public with the lawsuit which was filed in September.
The legal complaint accuses McDaniel of filing 20 “frivolous letters and complaints” of misconduct against township employees with agencies ranging from the U.S. Senate and governor’s office to local and state prosecutors.
Under the state’s Open Public Records Act, people have the right to request a multitude of records and data from public entities such as city and county governments and school districts.
In most cases, record custodians are required to respond to requests within seven business days by providing the documents or requesting more time to comply. Agencies that unlawfully deny access to records can be sued in Superior Court and end up paying plaintiffs’ legal fees.
Township calls former teacher bully and annoying
Irvington’s lawsuit against the woman, however, claims her OPRA demands have become “unduly burdensome, time-consuming and costly.” He is seeking a court order preventing him from filing any further “baseless complaints”.
“Defendant repeatedly intimidated and annoyed the township administration and otherwise continued to disrupt township operations,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also said McDaniel made “libelous and derogatory statements and false allegations of wrongdoing against the township and its employees,” including Mayor Tony Vauss.
“Seems to me like it’s more of a city trying to bludgeon a taxpayer into submission.”
McDaniel, who once ran for mayor against Vauss, told NBC 4 New York that as a taxpayer she has a right to know how her tax money is being spent.
John Paff, an activist who has filed hundreds of public records requests in New Jersey over the years and runs the TransparencyNJ.com website, said the township has to get over it.
Paff doesn’t think the lawsuits are about the volume of claims, and that McDaniels’ claims are far from excessive.
“It strikes me as more of a city trying to bludgeon a taxpayer into submission,” Paff said.
In 2017, Teaneck failed to arrest Elie C. Jones after filing 380 OPRA requests. A judge said that while the township’s frustration with the number of requests is understandable, the requests have not caused irreparable harm.
“If Irvington can show that McDaniel’s requests are truly disrupting its operations, he could offer to let her prioritize unanswered requests and let the city respond to them, maybe one a week, in order of priority,” said Puff. “There are certainly better ways to go about it than to sue her.”
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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