Trouble is brewing over the already controversial redevelopment of Medford’s former municipal building, where Township officials have denied access to documents and information that we know exist. In an OPRA request made on August 17th, Rabble Rouser Media made the following request.
“Results of 17-19 North Main Street surveys, including any contaminations found on the site. All reports and results of ground testing for contamination.”
Medford’s response to our request was that “there are no documents for this request”, but we already knew that was not true, because we have a very reliable source to say that contamination was found in the wells of the future home of Magnify Brewing.
We responded by writing “Are you claiming that there was no contaminations found at the 17-19 N. Main Street Property? Specifically but not limited to the wells and or underground testing?”.
They refused to respond, so about six days latter, we sent a follow up to them with more specificity as to what we were seeking.
We wrote “Please respond. I want to know if any contamination was found in the ground, and or wells, whether it minor or major, from all tests done, by any entity, for 17-19 N Main Street from the years 2021-2022. Please supply results of the boring and the well testing done by any entity, whether paid for by Medford township and or the redeveloper of the project.”
They respond, claiming now “This request seeks information or asks questions and does not identify specific government records. As such, your request is an invalid OPRA request and is denied.”.
So we responded by writing “I have identified specific records. This is not a legal denial. My request is for the results of any test done at the 17-19 North Main Street property, which I even made more specific by stating I wanted all of the tests for the ground and wells. Your first response claimed that there were no responsive records to my original request, correct? So if that is the case, how does my more specified and limited request now receive a response stating I have not specified the records you previously claimed did not exist? It makes no sense, and it seems you are just trying to confuse and frustrate me. As you know, I use this information to write articles regarding your responses and the information I feel people will find interesting. So for the article I will write regarding whether or not any testing has been done to the property, and if any contamination was found, I will just use your first response to my question. I will let you know though, I have information from a very reliable source who said contamination was found in the wells, I just want the report that shows such so I can properly report on it.”.
It took them another week to respond, only this time they claimed “In regards to your initial request of “Results of 17-19 North Main Street surveys, including any contaminations found on the site. All reports and results of ground testing for contamination” At the time of your request there were no documents. If you would like I can consider the below email a new OPRA request. Please advise.”
So first there was no documents, next the request was too broad, and now they are claiming something entirely different. We believe it was right about this point that they knew they had been caught, but wanted to stall for more time, or just hope I stopped asking. OPRA responses are handled by the Town’s Solicitor, Tim Prime, so the responses you see were most likely drafted by him.
What should have just been a simple response with the information requested, turned into a back and forth with the Solicitor over information he already knew existed. Every response from the solicitor is costing the tax payers boo ku bucks, so the back and forth actually benefits Mr Prime financially, but that is not the intention of NJ’s Open Public Records Act.
The intention of the act was for a more transparent government so people could start to regain faith that most had already lost in our system, yet with obvious attempts such as this to deny access to what we already knew existed, we realize that it is not just the contamination found in the wells that needs remediation.