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'Secret' Emails OPRA Request Denied By District

Citizen-activist said he 'absolutely' will appeal the decision.

After a months-long wait to get a ruling on whether he can have access to reportedly secret emails distributed by a Board of Education member, citizen-activist Robert Crawford finally got his answer: No.

In a letter from Interim Schools Business Administrator Mark Resnick denying Crawford's Open Public Records Act request, he said that the office reviewed emails sent from the private address of BOE member Anthony Mancuso to other school board members and Superintendent LeRoy Seitz on Feb. 5, 2011, March 11, 2011, and Nov. 9, 2011, and determined that they are "not government records pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1." 

Crawford also requested emails from Jan 14, March 8, May 24, June 4 and June 26 of this year that contained subject lines including the words in the "Recap; Emergency ReCap and/or Special Meeting Recap." According to Resnick, no emails from those dates exist in the district archive. 

Crawford, a former BOE member, said he will continue his quest to obtain copies of the emails he believes exist.

"There will be an appeal so that we can better understand why Mr. Resnick has determined that the emails I requested are not 'government records,'" he told Patch. "I would also like to understand if Mr. Resnick made this determination on his own or if he consulted others for their opinions and what if anything those consultations cost the school district. Finally, I would like to understand why Mr. Resnick is able to locate three documents and none of the others."

Crawford would not say whether he has seen copies of the documents he is requesting or how such copies might have been obtained. He has said that he suspects information from closed-door school board sessions were discussed in the emails.

Board member Michael Strumolo stated his support for Crawford's email hunt at the school board's Oct. 15 meeting.

President Frank Calabria said that night that he did not know what may have been discussed or by whom in the emails Crawford seeks.

Board attorney Kathleen Gilfillan also said she was not aware of the rumored emails' content.

Mancuso has not commented publicly on the matter.

Scott Dean November 15, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Birds of a feather flock together.Make sure you duck here comes the bull####!!!!
David Comora November 15, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Seems like this was always just a smokescreen... now maybe the board can get on with its real business.
g November 15, 2012 at 02:40 PM
"not government records pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1." Precisely, why are they consider not government records under N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1?
Monica Sclafani November 15, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Bob - how do you know the exact date and subject line of any emails that were sent? How do you know about emails that were sent from Anthony's private account? It sounds to me like you already have copies in your posession. So why the OPRA request? How did you get this information to begin with? What's your point? Why not just say what you need to say - get whatever it is out in the open and move on. We don't need all this background noise. I'm also sure that you know, as a past board member, that every piece of information is not OPRA-able. g (above comment) reminds us of that fact by citing NJSA 47....
clyde donovan November 15, 2012 at 03:46 PM
If there's nothng to hide, the Board of Education should release all the emails, including those that are supposedly not there (which no one believes). Otherwise we can assume there's something they don't want the public to know.
clyde donovan November 15, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Get in touch with open-public records expert John Paff http://njopengovt.blogspot.com/
steve revette November 15, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Of course the district was going to deny this. It was very obvious from the very beginning. Maybe I could be wrong but didn't I hear somewhere where the board members aren't suppose to email each other at all. I thought all information board members received was suppose to go to the superintendent and he was responsible for making sure board members get it. Also if atleast 3 other people were sent thos emails I think it would be in violation of the law as 4 people would be considered a meeting.
George L. Blair November 15, 2012 at 05:17 PM
LOL
Carol M. November 15, 2012 at 10:53 PM
I agree with Mrs Sclafani. How did you come in possession of these emails and do you have no shame for violating someone's privacy? You and Mr Strumolo should be investigated to find out how you have them in the first place. As a member, Mr Strumolo should remove himself until a full investigation into whether he violated the rights of another board member can be completed. This is beyond disgraceful; do you have even an ounce of respect for someone's civil rights or privacy? I hope you both end up getting charged with cyber bullying, intimidation, invasion of privacy or any other charge that's applicable. If these emails supposedly contain school business then produce them, otherwise fess up to getting them by whatever sleazy means you employed and take you knocks. You both need to stop trying to hide your slimy behavior behind an opra request.
steve revette November 16, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Since we're going to talk about people's privacy. I remember about two years ago where Mr. Crawford was being accused of things where it effected his privacy. Why is it okay to happen to Mr. Crawford but the thought of it happening to somebody else is wrong? I'm in agreement that the emails don't and shouldn't have to be disclosed but when Bob was a board member he should have been entitled to the amount same privacy as all the other board members. And Like I said earlier I didn't think board members were allowed to email each other at all because I thought having to many members attached to emails was in violation of the law. Isn't atleast 4 board members attached considered an official meeting which is why there are only 3 people on the comittees.
Roman Hoshowsky November 16, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Actually Monica, I found printed copies of those emails in a Malaysian landfill.
Monica Sclafani November 16, 2012 at 05:24 AM
Roman - actually, that wouldn't surprise me... you being in a Malaysian landfill, that is! lol
Roman Hoshowsky November 16, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Monica my good woman I can imagine you in worst places.
VietNam Vet November 16, 2012 at 07:21 AM
Monica the only one thats making so much noise is you and Carol here, if you have no idea what is going on then you can't say anything. If these e-mails exist then they should be Gov. Property of the BoE, which in itself is being run very sneaky. If the so called Supt. was doing everything on the up and up, then why are they stonewalling Mr.Crawford and Mr.Strumolo and preventing Mr. Strumolo from doing his job, or can't you see past that big noise on your crooked faces?
Monica Sclafani November 16, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Ahh Roman - thought we could have a little fun here, but apparantly not! So, I will take the high road and gear this conversation back to the issue instead of letting you use your comments as a smokescreen. Again - Mr. Crawford - how do you know the exact date and subject lines of any emails that were sent? How do you know about emails that were sent from Anthony's private account? Mr. Crawford, I await your answer.
Bob Crawford November 16, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Ms Sclafani All in good time...All in good time ...
Carol M. November 17, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Hmmm, let me guess when that good time might be; possibly right around the time when it could have the best negative impact on the upcoming fields referendum? Is that your goal Mr Crawford, to try and sabotage the referendum with more of your petty and personal agenda items? I'll interpret your answer to Mr Sclafani as an admission that you have obtained possession of these emails through inappropriate channels which I find appalling but If the emails have anything to do with school or what is public business then I would think it's your civic duty to release them right away and TIMING shouldn't be a factor. The fact that you sight a good time as playing a role in all this just confirms what I've thought all along, that you and Mr Strumolo aren't concerned that these emails should be public because of what they contain but rather how they can best serve your needs.
Bob Crawford November 17, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Carol M Come on now. You appear to be a "by the book" person who appreciates and values process. The original OPRA request was made on September 12 and the decision not to release the requested documents was made on November 12 which as I count is 61 days. The appeal process is about to be launched and I have no idea how long that might take. Once we have a better understanding of the appeal process we will have a better understanding of the "TIMING". Of course if Mr. Mancuso goes through with his law suit that may impact the "TIMING" as well. And just so you know, I think Mr. Mancuso should take any action he believes is warranted as long as he picks up the legal tab himself. Happy Thanksgiving
Mark November 17, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Carol, you sure seem to be making a lot of assumptions. If as you say, Mr. Crawford is just so devious and underhanded AND he has the emails, then wouldn't he have just given them to the Patch or told the Patch what's in them? Why would he be bothering with this whole process? It seems, from the tone of many of your posts, that no matter what Mr Crawford does or says, you're going to interpret it a certain way.
Monica Sclafani November 17, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Mark - Maybe you can answer this: HOW did Mr. Crawford know to request emails by SPECIFIC DATE and SUBJECT LINE if he didn't already have the emails in hand OR didn't receive specific information through improper channels? Could you ask for that kind of information without having some kind of prior knowledge? I agree with you. Why all this "cloak and dagger" business? Why is he bothering with this whole process? Could he be using the OPRA request as a cover-up to "make legal" information he received through the back door? Perhaps that is why he hasn't revealed anything to the Patch or his other "news" outlet.
Bob Crawford November 17, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Monica Think about it. The emails that have been OPRAed must have (1) either been provided by Mr Mancuso (doubtful) (2) were "manufactured" and are not real (possible) or (3) provided by someone that Mr. Mancuso sent the emails to who felt compelled to share those emails for his or her own reasons (possible) As for " all of this cloak and dagger business" and "cover-up " how does using the OPRA process lead you to believe such nefarious activities are underway? If the requested emails referenced board business and were sent to a certain number of other Board and or Administration members then perhaps they should be in the public domain. If not fine. The District's Record Custodian did his job and decided that the emails were not OPRAble. The process allows for an appeal of his decision. Let's let the process work. Happy Thanksgiving
Carol M. November 18, 2012 at 01:34 PM
How convenient that you hang your hat on the proper process at this point Mr Crawford. Where was your defense of the proper process when the emails were first delivered to you? Where was your defense of the proper process when Mr Strumolo tried to claim ownership of all emails on the school servers? Where was your support of due process when you shared specifics from the emails with others? And if you respect the process, why would you characterize them as having the potential to do harm before you knew of their validity? If you value the process then why all the attention in advance of the resolve? You have told too many people that you have copies of the emails so there's no turning back from that now but as a former boe member, are you not completely capable of recognizing if they warrant public viewing for the public good? If you were a proper recipient of the emails, you would have been at liberty to share them however you saw fit. If you have concerns or doubts about their source or content then no one should have known anything about them until the process was complete and you had validation of their authenticity. You have shown no respect for the process prior but now that's your default? With all the attention you have sought over these emails and with all the stir you have created before the emails have even been properly released, what exactly is your goal Mr Crawford? You speak so freely about the actions of others; how about sharing the motivation behind yours?
Bob Crawford November 18, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Carol Let's keep the facts straight. I have never shown any of the emails to anyone. Nor do I have copies of the emails. If appropriate and Board business was discussed in the emails with other Board and Administration members then, as a member of the public I would like to get copies of the emails which is why I have initiated the OPRA process. My motivation for doing so is to ensure that the public is aware of what transpires when elected officials discuss the public's business. Again, if my appeal is denied I will, of course accept that decision. As for the validity of the emails, they were confirmed to exist by the District's Record Custodian when he denied the initial OPRA reaquest stating that, in his opinion, those emails were not government records pursuant to N.J.S.A 47:1A-1.1. With regard to seeking attention when I was contacted by the NJ Star Ledger on two occasions for comment I did not return the reporter's call. That appears not to have been the case with Mr. Mancuso.
open government April 05, 2013 at 10:50 AM
Boy that shut her up! Did you ever get the records?

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