LITTLE EGG HARBOR – Robin LaBue of the Gilmore firm has been switched out for Jean Cipriani, a move that led Dave Schlick to question the sudden change at the January meeting of the township committee. Schlick also alleged that OPRA requests are not being handled in a timely fashion by the township.
“I see Mrs. LaBue is not here anymore and we have a new lawyer in the house,” Schlick said at the January township committee meeting. “Why the change?” he questioned.
LaBue, who was once assigned the task of monitoring postings made on this website, has served as the Little Egg Harbor township attorney in past years until only recently being replaced by Jean Cipriani of the same firm. Schlick said that he called LaBue and she told him that she did not ask to be reassigned.
“Ms. LaBue is not in the house but she is still with the firm and still doing work and will continue to do work for Little Egg Harbor,” replied Jean Cipriani, who is now appearing at committee meetings as the township attorney.
“There was a internal assignment of me to start going to the meetings and being more involved in Little Egg Harbor,” Cipriani, a partner in the Gilmore firm added. “My only agenda is to do a good job for the township.”
Ms. Cipriani was last seen at the September meeting of the Little Egg Harbor Township Committee, a contentious affair that eventually saw the committee drop any potential action against Township Administrator / CFO Garrett Loesch and Police Chief Richard Buzby.
Schlick asked Cipriani if the decision to swap out LaBue for herself was unilaterally made by her boss, George Gilmore, or if anybody from Little Egg Harbor asked for LaBue to be switched out as the township attorney.
“But you’ll find out if George [Gilmore] made this decision on his own to switch you guys out?” Schlick inquired.
“I will certainly ask,” Cipriani replied.
OPRA Requests Are Not Being Addressed “In A Timely Fashion,” Schlick Alleges
Following the questions regarding the township attorney, the committeeman then alleged that the township is not responding to requests made under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) in the legally required timeframe.
“We are not getting our OPRA requests addressed in a timely fashion,” Schlick said at the meeting.
He said that he has fielded calls from “several people” aggrieved about the timeframe in which the township was responding to requests for public records made under the state law, to include two realtors and another unnamed individual.
“I’d hate to see us get sued again,” the committeeman added, citing $20,000 in legal fees incurred by the township from a past OPRA lawsuit.
The OPRA statute, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq. includes a “fee shifting” provision that allows the prevailing party in an action commenced under the state law to have their legal fees paid by the public entity that they sue to gain access to public records.