Subscribe:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Council Uses Subpoena Authority Without Proper Approval to Uncover Anonymous Critic's Identity

GallowayTwpNews.com has obtained through an Open Public Records Request; Closed Session Minutes, Emails, Online Comments, Subpoenas, Confidential Memorandums and Legal Invoices all pertaining to an Email Investigation in 2011. According to the minutes, the investigation was initiated by a request from former Councilman Dennis Kleiner.


According to the minutes, several council members received anonymous emails to their Township email account as well as their private emails accounts. The name on the email from a yahoo account was "Den Klein." The Township later referred to the investigation as the Den Klein investigation. According to the emails sent by the anonymous individual, former councilman Dennis Kleiner was not included on the list of recipients, all other council members were.

The content of the email released by the Township in full, pertained to several individuals including former clerk Lisa Tilton's alleged disciplines and suspension, former manager Stephen Bonanni and former councilman Dennis Kleiner. The sender of the emails indicated they were an dormant employee of the Township for "15 years" and finally needed to speak out. The employee stated in the email they chose the method of sending an anonymous email because former manager Stephen Bonanni would not allow them to speak to Council directly.

It appears Kleiner started to investigate on his own to figure out who Den Klein was. Kleiner submitted his own OPRA request in July 2011 in order to obtain a copy of the email including the headers of the email which would release the IP address of the sender.  According to the documents, the IP address lead to Yahoo since the email address was created through that email provider. 

GallowayTwpNews.com sent an email to the email address of Den Klein as released by the Township and our email was returned as undeliverable. 

In August 2011, Kleiner requested Council to investigate who the individual was sending the emails and posting online comments at Galloway Patch.com under the screen name of Den Klein. Kleiner stated in closed session that the employee, referring to the Den Klein individual, was releasing information from closed session that pertained to collective bargaining, negotiations and the fact that Kleiner recused himself from a collective bargaining issue.  Councilman Jim Gorman stated he believed the recusal happened in open session and not in Closed. 

According to the minutes former Solicitor Michael Blee stated to council, "You are public officials and the public can pretty much write anything they want to. But if there is a possible violation of the Faulkner Act, our Personnel Policy or the Open Public Meeting Act." Blee further stated, "there may not be a clear violation."

After receiving the words of advice from Blee, Council still decided to create a committee to review emails and evidence Kleiner had to provide. Part of the evidence in documents released by the Township were online comments made by Den Klein. The comments appear to be provided by an individual with a screen name of "Terry." According to Blee's invoices, he has recorded reviewing evidence submitted by a "source." 

Through our own investigation, we were able to confirm that the "source" and the name of "Terry" was in fact Terry Lucarelli. Lucarelli up until recently was the Municipal Leader of the Republican Party. Lucarelli has since resigned her position, although she still is an elected County Committee member.

Although the Township attempted to file subpoenas on both Yahoo and the Internet Provider Comcast, both entities denied the Township's request to release the owner's information. In the documents released by the Township, Comcast stated since it doesn't pertain to criminal activity, Comcast has no obligation to release their clients information. Council went as far as to even review Facebook pages of Mayor Don Purdy and former Mayor Keith Hartman since the employee, Den Klein, indicated they obtained both their private email addresses from their Facebook account. Even that investigation failed. 

The only other option at this point for the Township to figure out who Den Klein was, was to begin questioning employees of the Township. According to documents, Council then decided to close the investigation.

We reached out to Kleiner for a request for comment in reference to the investigation, evidence he supplied to the Township according to the minutes and what his thoughts were as to the outcome of the investigation being closed with no further action. Kleiner responded, "your joking rite? Thanks I needed a laugh." We followed up our request indicated we were not sure what part he believed we were joking about. Kleiner further responded by saying, "still laughing."

Some of our questions to Kleiner pertained to evidence that appeared to be submitted by former Galloway Township Republican Municipal Leader Terry Lucarelli. Lucarelli reached out to us after Kleiner forwarded her our email to him requesting comment. Lucarelli confirmed she did supply the evidence to Solicitor Blee but "did so as a Citizen of Galloway and not as a member of the GTRL.

We reached out to all members of council including former Mayor Keith Hartman. Hartman was the Mayor at the time the investigation occurred. According to the minutes, Kleiner asked Hartman if he was going to recuse himself from the investigation since he recused himself at the time of former clerk Lisa Tilton's hearing in July 2011. According to multiple individuals, some members of council including Mayor Don Purdy believed former clerk Lisa Tilton was the individual behind the anonymous emails of "Den Klein."

Kleiner asked Hartman in closed session if Hartman received any emails from Den Klein. Hartman responded, "I may have." We submitted a request for comment to Hartman asking if he received emails from the employee of Den Klein and if the employee was former clerk Lisa Tilton. Hartman stated, "Den Klein disclosed their identity to me. I was able to verify it with certainty. It was not Lisa Tilton.  The same employee was being harassed and I brought it to the attention of our Solicitor. He refused to take action without the identity of the person.  The person feared retaliation and would not formally file a complaint with their real name." 

According to Hartman, Council was never made aware to the full extent of what evidence including the online comments, were provided in order for Council to review. Some members of Council were also not aware that evidence was submitted by Terry Lucarelli. 

Council is afforded the right under NJ Law to form a Municipal Investigative Committee. This affords Council extraordinary powers under certain circumstances in order for Council to make a decision. One of the requirements in order to form an investigative committee was to formalize a Resolution of Council detailing their intent of an Investigation. According to Township documents and minutes, Council never voted on a Resolution, yet proceeded in closed doors and conducted their investigation anyway.

The only mention of a committee being formed was at a Council meeting on September 13, 2011 during Council Committee reports. The committee consisted of Deputy Mayor Don Purdy, Councilman Jim Gorman and Councilwoman Whitney Ullman. The committee as described in the minutes was a committee for the "investigation of the internet." No resolution and no formal reason was indicated. 

According to New Jersey League of Municipalities:

"Once a governing body determines that a Municipal Investigation Committee will be formed, it should constitute that through detailed resolution. The resolution should not merely memorialize the formation of the Investigation Committee, but should detail the scope of the matter to be investigated. At this point, balance is the key. The scope of the investigation should be sufficiently detailed and focused as to convince a Court, in the event of challenge, that the municipal governing body is not merely engaging in a “witch hunt.” However, the resolution should describe the matter expansively enough to anticipate and legitimize the investigation of matters that may come to light as the investigation unfolds." 

"The Resolution establishing the Investigation Committee should also detail its authority to issue subpoenas and compel the attendance of witnesses and documents; the detailing of these powers gets the attention of those who may not otherwise take the investigation seriously. Further, the resolution should affirm that the Investigation Committee, at the end of its charge, shall issue a report to the governing body—even though they may be composed of the same people. Furthermore, the resolution should recognize that after an Investigation Committee issues such a report, the governing body may then initiate and take separate action, including personnel action, which will be preceded by all of the substantive and procedural due process requirements that must be observed by a governing body."

According to Municipal records and Minutes from 2011, Council did not approve a resolution as required by law in order to properly investigate the Den Klein matter.  We asked if Council used their powers appropriately. Former Mayor Keith Hartman stated, "No, I feel like it was a witch hunt to vet out an anonymous blog poster who made comments that made some members of council upset. I feel that if you are an elected official you are subject to public scrutiny as it pertains to your record and actions as an elected official.  I further feel it is a waste of taxpayers resources to chase down your critics."

We requested comment from all other members of Council. As of time of publication, no sitting member of Council that was part of this investigation in 2011 returned our multiple requests for comment. 

Township Council approved expenditures and this investigation without following the appropriate rules by NJ Statutes. Council exercised subpoena powers in hopes to vet out who the employee was that was not only issuing a complaint in reference to Management, but also exercising their first amendment right. 

Even recently, Chief of Police Patrick Moran sent an email to his employees on January 16, 2013, that he was contacted by the new and old Publisher of GallowayTwpNews.com referencing issues with Policies and Procedures within the Police Department. Moran requested his employees who have issues with policies and procedures and who have decided to reach out to GallowayTwpNews.com to address those concern with him. Moran requested his employees in the email to "send the anonymous e-mails to" him or "any other administrator to correct the problem" and not to GallowayTwpNews.com.

It is our opinion, based on this investigation, that no wonder why employees that have concerns about the operations of their government are trying to vent out their concerns anonymously and away from Galloway Township Officials. Employees do not want to be subjected to this type of investigation just because they wanted to freely address their concerns. 

We encourage all employees and residents to email GallowayTwpNews.com at gallowaytwpnews@gmail.com and address any concerns you have about Galloway Township's Government. We will investigate all claims.  Do not be afraid to voice your concerns.

GallowayTwpNews.com has released all the documents supplied by the Township in reference to the Den Klein investigation. Although Legal Invoices total $960.00 only specifically detail three months under Ad Hoc Committee Investigation, we were able to identifying other entries listed in Blee's invoices under personnel that referenced this investigation. Because some of the detail in the invoices labeled under personnel were not fully specific to this investigation, we were not able to truly calculate the amount the Township expended for this investigation. 





1 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lucarelli should be removed from the County Committee and from the GTRL because she "outed" a fellow Republican! She did her best to provide information on a person who she put into office!!!! OK, Keith Davis, what inaction will you take next against her now??? Are you afraid that she will "out" you next??

Post a Comment

 
Web Analytics