Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ringwood Records Spur Battle

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ringwood Records Spur Battle

Article excerpt

RINGWOOD — A former mayor is pursuing a complaint against the borough with the state's Government Records Council claiming officials are blocking access to emails relating to the Ringwood Mines Superfund and its pending cleanup.

Borough records show the request for nearly a decade of email correspondence from Wenke Taule, mayor in 2004 and 2005, was not rejected outright. However, borough officials are estimating it will take several weeks and hundreds of dollars in special service fees to execute the request.

"The Borough is putting up unnecessary roadblocks, so as not to comply with my [Open Public Records Act] request; of which, charging an exorbitant amount of money is one," Taule said.

Scott Heck, borough manager, said finding the emails requested by Taule is more difficult than it sounds.

Taule initially asked for emails from 2008-2017 between the borough manager and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, and Highlands Council. With that request rejected as too broad, Taule amended her request to only apply to a handful of individuals representing the agencies. The borough's projected cost to execute that request is $1,167 in just hourly wages.

"Some of that stuff has a tremendous amount of volume of documents that are attached. It's not that simple," Heck said.

Taule said she further amended her request and pared it down to emails to three EPA officials in what she said is her search for insight into the most important issue facing Ringwood.

Remediation work is pending at the Ringwood Mines Superfund, a EPA-regulated site where Ford Motor Co. dumped paint sludge and other industrial waste 50 years ago. A plan to manage the 500-acre site's polluted groundwater is set for release by the EPA this year.

"The public has a right to know exactly what the borough is communicating to the [EPA] on our behalf, regarding this serious matter," she said. …

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