I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Who Has More Secrets: CIA or NJDOE?

Oh, my:
The Education Law Center is suing the state to obtain documents about two private educational reform foundations and their funding of the Department of Education and some of its employees. 
The suit, citing the state’s Open Public Records Act, comes after the ELC was either being denied access to records or strung along with repeated requests for extensions that remain unfulfilled more than two months after the original request.
State law requires that open records requests be fulfilled as soon as possible, but no later than seven business days after receiving the request.
The Education Law Center has unsuccessfully sought information from the Department of Education about the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, William Cox, a former DOE employee paid via funds from the Broad Foundation, and Bing Howell and Rochelle Sinclair, two Broad Foundation Residents who are employed by the DOE, yet paid in-part by the Broad Foundation. [emphasis mine]
Broadies? In the NJDOE? Why, I'm just shocked...

Well, I'm sure the NJDOE has a good reason for all the Nixonian behavior:
The DOE denied access to requested emails because the ELC had not identified their content or subject matter.
“OPRA does not require the ELC or anyone else to specify the content of government emails they have requested records, which are already identifiable public records,” said Thomas MacLeod, the Open Governance Project legal fellow for the ACLU-NJ.
“If such a requirement existed, it would undermine transparency in government by unnecessarily and improperly narrowing the scope of many valid OPRA requests.”
“It is disturbing that the DOE wants to keep the public in the dark when it comes to making decisions and forming partnerships that involve our children’s education,” said Sciarra of the ELC.
Disturbing? Yes. Surprising? No. Remember, ACTING Commissioner Cerf has been following the Omerta code since his days in NYC. Remember the report the NYCDOE released about Cerf's involvement in a shady stock deal?

Nice - hope Bloomberg bought enough charcoal pencils for the staff at Tweed.

Further, Cerf sits on the Government Records Council, the group that handles appeals of rejected requests for public information. Did the GRC review ELC's requests? Did Cerf recuse himself?

Don't bother filing an OPRA request to find out...

NJDOE ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf (artist's conception)*

* Totally stole that joke from Atrios. Sue me.


Rwm531 said...

I've been waiting 24 days now for my last OPRA. The DoE hasn't even bothered to give me the courtesy of asking for an extension. They claimed on another OPRA that they lost it even though I filed it electronically ("the dog ate my computer" excuse?).
The DoE should hang their heads in shame. I'm glad to see that ELC sued. The DoE needs to find out that they are expected to be accountable to the public and need to stop acting like they are above it all.

Duke said...

Rita, don't hold your breath. The only thing that will stop this nonsense is if someone in the legislature decides enough is enough.