August 25, 2005

Devine Hyprocrisy

In the July 7th edition of the News Record/Clark Patriot, a large article appeared on page three entitled “The Cost of Open Government”. The article told of a local woman, Tina Renna, and her encounters with the Clerk of the Union County Freeholder Board. Mrs. Renna has been attempting to obtain information regarding the workings of the county government and how taxpayers money is spent using the Open Public Records Act, also known as OPRA.

Sebastian D’Elia, a county spokesperson, is quoted in the article referring to Mrs. Renna’s requests as “a systemic pattern of harassment and intimidation.” Two other county employees are also quoted about the amount of time it takes to locate and assemble the copies of what Mrs Renna has requested and they also reported that they have every OPRA request reviewed by an attorney because of Renna’s filings of legal actions associated with her demands for information. I wonder why?

Yes, Mrs. Renna has filed complaints against the county with the Government Records Council (GRC), a government entity who found that the office of the clerk of the board of freeholders was in violation of OPRA, no less than three times and in fact referred one case to an administrative law judge. Records have been reported lost, returned incomplete, retuned well beyond the legal time frame allowable by the law and in one case containing notes that they, the county, could not say that attendance records were accurate and what employees and how many worked in a specific department. This is the county government, the very people who spend over one million tax dollars every day of the year, are responsible for building bridges, recording deeds and mortgages, running the jails, maintaining roads and our parks, oversee the county police and sheriffs departments and they admittedly cannot keep accurate attendance records?

Nowhere in the article does it mention that the publication contacted Mrs. Renna for her input and reactions to the situation. The Devine Media article is a personal attack on her intended to discredit her efforts to shed light on the spending and operations of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the offices of our county government administration.

The ironic part of this is that Devine Media Newspapers are among the official papers of the board and publish an endless number of Public Notices weekly. In fact in the July 14th edition, on page 19 a banner runs across the page reading “BECAUSE THE PEOPLE MUST KNOW”. It goes on to say: “Actions planned and taken by our government are announced in public notices. They are part of your “right to know” and they inform you what your government is doing.”

Devine Media claims that they urge citizens to read the public notices. Further they state: “We advise those citizens who seek further information to exercise their right to access public records and public meetings.” After reading the article it is obvious that Devine Media doesn’t stand behind its own statements and is not supportive of those citizens who decide to exercise their right to be informed and inform others.