Ex-Bayonne BA sues city over unfulfilled OPRA request about her successor & contractor


Former Bayonne Business Administrator Melissa Mathews is suing the city over an unfulfilled Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request about her successor and a city vendor, court filings show.

Former Bayonne Business Administrator Melissa Mathews. Facebook photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Her two-count lawsuit, filed in Hudson County Superior Court on November 20th, alleges that she filed an OPRA request with the city on May 19th that asks for communications between Business Administrator Donna Russo and Joe Bolowski, who owns control services.

Specifically, she asked for “all emails to or from Donna Russo regarding Bolowski, control services, 211 Bennett, Bayonne Custom Fencing or A&L Recycling from 1/1/2017 to 12/31/2019. Please include emails from her baynj.org and her aol email.”

Mathews also asked for attachments to the emails to be included and through her attorney in the matter, Walter Luers, says the city asked for two extensions – one on June 20th and the other on October 5th – and has still not responded as of this writing.

In New Jersey, OPRA requests are supposed to be answered within seven business days, with the municipality able to request an extension for voluminous requests.

The suit alleges the city has violated OPRA and the Common Law Right to Access, and as a result, Mathews is seeking costs of suit, attorneys’ fees, and any other relief the court deems just and equitable.

On Tuesday, Hudson County Superior Court Assignment Judge Jeffrey Jablonski scheduled an order to show cause on January 15th, 2024 at 2 p.m., with the defendants able to file and serve opposition to the order.

A city spokesman declined to comment on pending litigation.

This is at least the second time this year that Bayonne has been sued for not complying with an OPRA request, with the New Jersey Comptroller’s Office filing suit in March after a records request and subpoena about the sale of Marist High School was ignored.

Mathews is currently in the deposition phase of her case in her gender discrimination case filed in April 2021, with Russo named the acting business administrator on July 1st, 2022 when Mayor Jimmy Davis was sworn in for his third term.

She was unanimously appointed (5-0) business administrator by the city council in late September of the same year.

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/hcvcp/public_html/wp-content/themes/Hudson County View/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 353