Atlantic City Convention Center Authority v. South Jersey Publishing Co.

637 A.2d 1261 (1994)

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Atlantic City Convention Center Authority v. South Jersey Publishing Co.

New Jersey Supreme Court
637 A.2d 1261 (1994)

LJ

Facts

The Atlantic City Convention Center Authority (the authority) (defendant) was an agency of the State of New Jersey and was subject to the state’s open-meetings and open-records laws. In 1988 Ted Bergman, the chief officer of one of the authority’s subsidiaries, was separated from employment with the authority. Prior to Bergman’s separation, the authority convened in closed session to discuss Bergman’s job performance. In 1991 the authority rehired Bergman as an independent contractor. The authority’s bylaws permitted the authority to tape-record the closed-session meetings to assist with the authority’s obligation to keep meeting minutes. However, New Jersey law did not require that the agency make the recordings. The South Jersey Publishing Company (the media) (plaintiff) requested that the authority release the minutes of the closed-session discussions. Bergman asserted a personal-privacy interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the closed-session minutes. Shortly thereafter, the media requested the release of the recordings, asserting that they were public records subject to disclosure. The authority opposed the release of the recordings, arguing that they were made for the convenience of the authority and were not public records. The chancery court held that the recordings were not public records and, therefore, were not subject to disclosure. The chancery court further opined that even if the recordings were public records, Bergman’s privacy interest in confidentiality would outweigh the media’s interest in their release. The media appealed, and the appellate court affirmed the chancery court. The appellate court stated that the recordings were not public records under common law nor under New Jersey’s open-records and open-meetings laws. The appellate court further determined that it was not necessary to balance the interests of Bergman against the interests of the media because there was no legal requirement that the agency create the recordings. The media filed an appeal.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (O’Hern, J.)

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