Judge rules that Hoboken has to disclose emails of Nixle subscribers, city deciding next steps


A judge ruled last month that the City of Hoboken has to disclose the email addresses of their Nixle subscribers, prompting the city to launch a survey to determine how to proceed.

Screenshot via hobokennj.gov.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“The City of Hoboken recently received a decision in the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) litigation matter, Carmine Sodora v. City of Hoboken et al., which would require the City to disclose the email addresses of all residents and individuals who signed up for Nixle alerts,” the city wrote in a Nixle alert last night.

“The City strongly objected to the disclosure on privacy grounds. Neither Nixle (also known as Everbridge) nor the City of Hoboken has ever disclosed email addresses or private information collected through Nixle, to any third parties, as a matter of policy.”

The alert continued that when a resident subscribes, they receives a message that their information is not shared with the city and they may unsubscribe at any time.

The survey, which is open until June 22nd at 7 p.m., asks five questions along the lines of if subscribers expected privacy when they signed up, how important their privacy is, and finally if they believe the city should appeal the decision.

On May 26th, Camden County Superior Court Judge Deborah Silverman Katz ruled in favor of Sodora as part of three combined OPRA cases in a 50-page decision.

” … This court has already held that the third-party agencies acted in a governmental manner so as to implicate the statutory reach of OPRA. If some category of information would be public when held by the government, then is makes little sense that it is now private merely because a third party holds it,” she ruled.

“Such a holding would be the foundation by which governments could circumvent their public disclosure requirements. For these reasons, the court does not find that the requested records are exempt from OPRA as proprietary information.”

She concludes that this decision is hardly an anomaly, noting that “the majority of courts in this country” have extended OPRA laws to private companies, also acknowledging that some states have left matters like these to the judiciary.

“Because this issue cannot be solved through text alone, states have left this issue to the judiciary, recognizing the ever-evolving needs of public disclosure. Moreover, this decision continues to upholds their states’ renowned legacy of broad transparency under OPRA and protects our citizens’ rights to public access.”

In a statement, Mayor Ravi Bhalla said the city does not plan on sharing residents’ private information with a third party contractor and indicated the city will more than likely appeal.

“The City of Hoboken has no interest in sharing our residents’ private contact information with any third party. I believe the court’s decision violates the trust our residents place in us to safeguard their contact information, information we rely on to disseminate vital emergency notifications in a crisis and important government information,” he said.

“This decision will have a chilling effect on our ability to effectively communicate and protect our residents who may now no longer wish to disclose their contact information. As Mayor I have no interest in releasing the personal email information of any Hoboken resident, and based on the feedback from the community, we will continue to fight in the courts to ensure that residents’ private information remains just that, private.”

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  1. The city of Hoboken has routinely been using the Nixle system as a propaganda tool for political purposes instead of just stating critical news. If they can use the list of emails address for political purposes why can’t others? Or better yet stop the city from their abuse of the system.

  2. Why is the decision from a judge in Camden County and not Hudson County? Wouldn’t it be the jurisdiction of the county the city is in, which is Hudson in this case?

  3. I checked my inbox for the old Nixie alerts about the high school vote, they were all FYI’s that a vote was coming, a link to a website with the proposed plan, and list of voting locations. There was no “pro-HS” message in the Nixies, they were entirely FYI information that you would expect any city to provide to residents. This lawsuit is totally disingenuous, based on this dude’s “right” to “tell the other side of the story” on the HS proposal. The Nixies were neither pro nor con the proposed HS. Total BS.

  4. It should be emphasized that:

    1. Most importantly, Ravi’s team already violates your privacy and “harasses” you by email spam. How many of you have received a Bhalla crony newsletter for which you never subscribed? Ever wonder why? Now you know.

    2. As noted already, Ravi routinely also violates Nixle’s Terms of Use (no politics!), pushes his agenda, and attacks his political opponents. It’s not just this case in which Mr. Sodora requested information about the email addresses to which Ravi sent his “Vote Yes” to the first attempt at Hoboken’s new athletic stadium…with a high school attached, but also as pointed out by several other City Councilpersons. Everbridge (owner of Nixle) did not take action, sadly.

    3. The Nixle that Ravi sent out regarding this matter is but one such clear violation of those Terms of Use.

    4. I believe Mr. Sodora has a case for character defamation against the City of Hoboken and perhaps Ravi personally as a result.

    5. The “survey” that Ravi directed residents to in this Nixle alert:

    a. Is a fine example of his political spin – no matter how childishly lowbrow or moronically obvious – at work. I mean, asking residents to rate to what degree they want their privacy respected is about as obvious to both my 2nd grade daughter and dog as packing his proposed uptown Municipal Castle, paying off police and fire officials by giving them jobs and raises and the having them espouse the urgent need for public safety as he suppresses crime statistics and both Murphy’s and Biden’s teams, including Pete Buttegged, to which he desperately wants to escape Hoboken to, should take note.

    b. Also captures data on us residents and thereby again violates your privacy. Ravi is about to be exposed by another resident who has received geolocation data the city captured and finally provided in another failed OPRA dodge during another “spinvey” Ravi issued on his castle. Moron.

    6. There are *numerous* other failed OPRA requests with which Ravi has failed to comply including his own timesheets which, by NJ law, he is required to keep yet probably ignored perhaps whilst he was interviewing for his other job at John Allen’s law firm. And the floodgates are now open for many more, including the results of this “spinvey.”

    7. While Ravi calls the recall of his puppet Phil a “joke,” citing a $50,000 inflated recall election cost yet graciously acknowledging/granting that “Americans are free to do whatever they want” and ignoring the merits of democracy including how even uber-liberal SF just voted overwhelmingly to recall their DA, he’s not *yet* (OPRA incoming?) telling us taxpayers how much this single OPRA case cost us/taxpayers in a) City litigation expenses b) punitive damages awarded to Mr. Sodora c) appeal costs for his “privacy” “concerns” and potentially d) further punitive defamation damages awarded to Mr. Sodora for spinning his OPRA request to make it appear as those he (Sodora) would use email records to spam or “harass” residents.

    There’s a reason the state of NJ has already censured Ravi.

    But I sure am glad my 7-year-old is witnessing firsthand such a fine example of how much harder one must work erecting and maintaining a tower of lies.

    Ravi’s tenure as Hoboken’s mayor – which is hopefully ending very soon – has been nothing more than failed promises (YMCA pool? Not collecting two paychecks? Homeless task force? Downtown Hilton? Union Dry Dock? *Any* new parks actually open?) and self-aggrandizement surfing of the collective lemming liberal mind in riding the COVID, BLM, Ukraine, “women’s” rights, and other *national* issues wave.

    I want a new mayor. One who works for Hoboken first – not himself – my “privacy” and tax dollars be dammed!

  5. We all know Ravi uses Nixle to push his own political agenda, which isn’t about Hoboken but rather his next job (outside of the two he currently holds).

    Please write Nixle and let them know you support their Terms of Service – even if our mayor doesn’t – and ask them to step in here.

    I would hate for us to lose emergency alerts because Ravi pushes his agenda.