Holland v. Township of West Orange

On April 21, 2010, the ACLU-NJ filed a complaint against the West Orange Open Space and Recreation Committee, which excluded members of the public from its March meeting. The plaintiff, Frances Chasan Holland, a resident of West Orange in Essex County, had hoped to attend the Open Space Committee's meeting on March 8, 2010, after seeing it advertised in the local paper and town newsletter. But when Holland arrived, the committee members in attendance falsely told her that they lacked the requisite quorum for a public meeting. Violating the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), they shut the doors and went into closed session, reportedly drafting an ordinance about the development of steep slopes. When Holland requested information about the meeting, West Orange claimed that the Open Public Meetings Act didn't apply to them because the committee lacked influence over the rights of residents. However, as a voting body, the committee holds significant sway over residents' rights. It identifies, prioritizes and recommends properties for West Orange to acquire for open space projects, which qualifies it as public under OPMA. Further, the West Orange municipal code mandates the Open Space Committee follow OPMA. West Orange settled the case by apologizing and amending its ordinances.

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