An elderly lady from New Jersey is being sued by a municipality for making too many requests for public records and participating in city meetings. The woman claims that she is harassing town officials.
Irvington Township is located in the a ForensicsFiled in New Jersey state court Elouise McDaniel, 82 years old, has been harassing and annoying town workers by filing “frivolous ethics complaints” and public records requests. McDaniel was accused by the township of malicious abuse and malicious prosecution, harassment, defamation and defamation.
McDaniel made more than 75 requests to the New Jersey Open Public Records Act for township information in Irvington Township over a three year period. Irvington states in the lawsuit that McDaniel’s “voluminous OPRA requests” was unduly time-consuming, costly and burdensome.
McDaniel unsuccessfully sought to become mayor in 2018. She stated that the suit was politically motivated.
She stated, “This has gone on for a long while and it’s just getting to me at this point,” This is absurd. I want to live out my final years … in peace.”
Each state has laws that give access to government records. While requests may be refused if they are too broad or burdensome, it is not illegal to send too many. I would be in poverty had it been so.
However, over the years city and state authorities have begun to file what is known as Lawsuits involving “reverse FOIA”.Public records requesters are prohibited from asking for information and requesting a court to stop disclosure. The requester is then forced to protect their rights to public records. (In fact, a Washington police department I filed a suit for reverse FOIA against youTwo years ago.
Irvington’s suit goes further than that, going into territory McDaniel & First Amendment experts call outright retaliation. Adam Steinbaugh (a First Amendment lawyer for Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE), speaks in his individual capacity to say that this unusual suit is in “man-bites dogs territory.”
His statement reads, “Here’s the city asking public records of a Citizen, whining an elderly resident exercised their right to request records and trying to get to a Court to order a Citizen to Stop Criticizing Her Town.” It’s shame New Jersey does not have anti-SLAPP laws. [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] statute. “This is one of the worst SLAPPs I have seen since watching the Oscars.”
If the suit is successful, it could set an awful state precedent, which would permit agencies to establish arbitrary thresholds that limit how many citizens can file requests.
Irvington claims McDaniel “bullied and annoyed Township management on multiple occasions and has continued to disrupt Township operations.”
According to the lawsuit, McDaniel allegedly approached a councilmember in 2017, pointed out her finger and then said “I’m going get you” and that she would pay. McDaniel, according to the suit, was then charged with disturbing the peace and pleaded guilty.
“If you’re a government official—presumably an adult—complaining to a court that an elderly woman ‘bullied’ you, then you have chosen the wrong profession,” Steinbaugh says.
Irvington says McDaniel has made many defamatory claims against the officials of townships, including theft, misconduct and cronyism.
Ironically, McDaniel’s corruption claims are not known outside Irvington, even though the town sued her for annoying.