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Raritan Wins Motions in Gannett Lawsuit

Audrey Blumberg

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 • 5:00pm

RARITAN, NJ - The case continues between Gannett New Jersey and Raritan Borough, which recently saw some wins concerning motions filed in the more than four-year-old lawsuit between the two entities.

Gannett filed a lawsuit against the borough more than four years ago over access to information about employee salaries and overtime information.

According to reports on the lawsuit, Gannett wanted the information in electronic format, instead of paper or PDF, as it was looking to compare and analyze salary information among different municipalities.

The borough had denied the existence of the records and sought to pass on a $1,100 service charge to conver the data. After Gannett proved in 2012 that the borough had access to the records in the requested format, the judge ruled that Raritan had unlawfully denied access to it.

The service charge was eventually waived.

As of May, a superior court judge in Somerville said Raritan Borough owes Gannett more than $590,000 in legal fees, and the borough appealed the decision.

In June, according to Raritan Mayor Jo-Ann Liptak, the Appellate court granted the borough's motion to reverse the requirement that Raritan sequester funds to pay Gannett's attorney fees. In addition, she said, a motion from Gannett that would require Raritan to pay the fees immediately was denied by the Appellate court.

Read Liptak's full update from June 24 below:

"It's been a long road so far, but we have today excellent news from the Appellate Division. This is on the motions that we and the League filed and motions that Gannett filed in response. The results below were provided to us orally this morning by Appellate Division staff.

Our motion was to preserve the stay of judgment pending appeal but reverse Judge Ciccone's requirement that Raritan appropriate and sequester funds to secure the payment of Gannett's attorneys' fees. We have been advised that the motion has been GRANTED. Raritan will not be required to take any steps to pay or secure payment of Gannett's fees while the underlying case is considered by the Appellate Division. This result is as we fully expected, but it is still good to know that the Appellate Division agrees.

The League's motion was to continue its role as amicus curiae at the Appellate Division level. That motion was GRANTED.

Gannett filed two motions. The first was to strike parts of our brief (for what we thought were bogus reasons) and to dissolve the stay of judgment pending appeal. If successful, the result would have required Raritan to pay Gannett's attorneys' fees immediately. Both parts of that motion were DENIED.

Gannett's second motion was directed to the League's request and its brief supporting Raritan's position. Both parts of that motion were DENIED.

Gannett also asked for oral argument. Granting oral argument might have implied that the questions of granting a stay of judgment pending appeal or requiring security were more difficult than we thought that they should be. 
Gannett's request was DENIED.

In sum, four motions, addressing six issues, and one request, all decided in Raritan's favor.

These Appellate Division decisions will be incorporated in written orders.

It remains much too early to have a result on the underlying issues in the Gannett case, most importantly the attorneys' fees issue, but the Appellate Division's understanding of and willingness to reverse one of Judge Ciccone's more egregious errors gives us renewed expectation that we are on a path to a favorable result."

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