To the Editor:
If Roger Martindell wants to save himself the time and expense of responding to a legitimate request for documents under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, he is directing his attention to the wrong party in the lawsuit that gives rise to this request (Mailbox June 20, “University’s “Unconstitutional” Demand for Dinky Communications “A Chilling Exercise of Legal Power”). The only reason this request was made is because a group of plaintiffs has challenged a 1984 contract between Princeton University and New Jersey Transit that has already been reviewed and found valid by the state Attorney General’s office, the Township attorney, attorneys hired by the Borough, and attorneys for both parties to the contract. The Plaintiffs have challenged this agreement in a baseless lawsuit, clearly as a tactic to try and block the University’s proposed Arts and Transit project. This is an important project to the community and the University, and we intend to defend the lawsuit thoroughly.
If Mr. Martindell prefers not to reveal his communications as a public official, he should be trying to persuade the plaintiffs (who are not parties to the contract they now challenge) to withdraw their nuisance lawsuit, rather than trying to persuade the University not to defend itself in a legal action. Mr. Martindell knows the importance of discovery in any litigation.
As was pointed out at a recent Borough Council meeting, in a different but related matter, one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit admitted publicly that in that matter she was following the instructions of a member of Borough Council. The University has a right to learn whether she or other plaintiffs in this case were similarly receiving direction from elected officials, or whether there were other communications that are germane to this case if and when it goes to trial.
Finally, our law is clear — there is no constitutional first amendment right for elected officials to maintain confidential communications with constituents. New Jersey has recognized the preeminent importance of transparency in government, even when it makes participants in the process uncomfortable.
Richard S. Goldman
Attorney for Princeton University