Township of Livingston Refuses to Release Report on April 19 ESU Swat Training Exercise: Is Township Violating Open Public Records Act (OPRA)?
Friday, June 21, 2013 • 6:59am
LIVINGSTON, NJ – On May 9, 2013, The Alternative Press of Livingston reported on an altercation and alleged assault involving Township Manager Michele Meade and police officers and civilians during an Emergency Service Unit (ESU) SWAT Training Exercise.
In response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request by The Alternative Press of Livingston, Livingston Township Clerk Glenn Turtletaub rejected the request, stating that the report created by John Quirk, Esq. for the township council is an Internal Affairs investigation under Attorney General Guidelines and, therefore, cannot be released. However, those same guidelines--as well as the Livingston Chief of Police, previous statements made by the township and also Councilwoman Deborah Shapiro--appear to suggest otherwise.
On Monday, June 4, TheAlternativePress.com submitted an OPRA request to Turtletaub for “attorney John Quirk’s full report to the township council summarizing the investigation and conclusions reached for the police department ESU incident involving Township Manager Michele Meade.”
On June 13, TheAlternativePress.com received a response email from Turtletaub stating, “On advice of counsel, this document is part of an Internal Affairs investigation file, and under the Attorney General’s guidelines, cannot be released to you at this time.”
However, according to 2011 New Jersey Internal Affairs Policy & Procedures, investigations initiated by the township council are not included in the list of law enforcement agencies that follow Attorney General guidelines
Furthermore, Livingston Police Chief Craig Handschuch told TheAlternativePress.com, “The report is a private investigation into the ESU training initiated by the township council and is not recognized by the police department or our Internal Affairs Unit.”
Prior statements from the township provided to The Alternative Press of Livingston also conflict with the Township’s stated reason for rejecting the OPRA request.
According to the press release issued by the township to TheAlternativePress.com regarding the April 19 ESU training, the town council “moved swiftly to initiate an independent investigation of the incident at a meeting on April 22.”
For a follow-up article, Councilwoman Deborah Shapiro also emphasized that she felt it should be a “purely administrative investigation.”
On Thursday, Shapiro told The Alternative Press of Livingston that “there are some on the council that do not want the report to be released yet because the investigation is still open and because we are waiting for information from the [Livingston Police] Chief.”
Shapiro also said that “the council has nothing to hide,” and “I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with releasing the report at this time… It is what it is, and truth is truth.”
TheAlternativePress.com has contacted the New Jersey Government Records Council and has been recommended by the Council to file a Denial of Access Complaint.
The Alternative Press of Livingston reached out to both Mayor Rudy Fernandez and counsel for the town, Jennifer Roselle of Genova Burns, for comment on the matter, but neither has responded.
Livingston Township Investigates Unannounced SWAT Team Exercise; Charges Filed Against Township Manager
Police Reports Paint Conflicting Picture of Livingston SWAT Exercise – Was Township Administrator Meade the Aggressor or Victim?
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