Open Public Records advocate John Paff's complaint against Brigantine is expected to be heard in state Superior Court in December, Paff said Wednesday.
In his suit, Paff seeks records related to the "investigative report and a municipal settlement agreement" involving former Police Chief Jim Frugoli.
Paff, a state Libertarian Party official from Somerset County who has sued multiple municipalities over public records, had sought information about the city investigation conducted in March by the law firm of Archer and Greiner.
Paff sent an open letter to Brigantine's mayor and City Council in August informing them of his intent to sue after he received only one e-mail - stating that "the ‘victim' (redacted) does not want to be interviewed at City Hall" - and was denied access to all other records, he said.
Paff also stressed in both his letter and his complaint that he does not seek the identity of the original complainant.
According to Paff's complaint, filed in September and which is expected to be heard by Judge Nelson Johnson, Paff requests a "declaration that the City violated (the Open Public Records Act) by refusing to provide Paff with the Agreement (without the identity of the alleged victim)."
He also requests the "agreement" named in Archer and Greiner's billing statement.
"The public's need for access to the Investigative Report and Agreement was greater than the City's need for secrecy," the complaint states.
Paff said Wednesday that "I just wanted to get it out there that this matter is going to be heard. I think it's an important case. If a person is subject to a sexual harassment complaint, that matter is of general interest to the public. ... In order for citizens to hold government accountable and have meaningful elections, they have to know the underlying facts."
In the city's official response to Paff's records request, which Paff has posted on his website, city Attorney Tim Maguire stated that "all of the documents requested ... deal with a matter involving a sexual harassment complaint or grievance filed by one municipal employee against another" and were therefore confidential.
In April, the city denied The Press of Atlantic City's Open Public Records Act request for all relevant documents related to the investigation. The Press has appealed to the state Government Records Council, which is scheduled to hear the appeal Nov. 30.
City Manager Jim Barber said Wednesday that he could not comment on ongoing litigation.
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