Following a TLS exclusive in which it was shown that Jackson officials had moved to delete records, including emails, upon which an OPRA request had been made, Jackson Township responded by saying that the records had not, in fact, been deleted, but rather have been moved off their server, and all information requests regarding the data now have to be searched for manually, rather than digitally.
In one suspicious case, Jackson denied an OPRA request that was made, claiming several times that the records requested had been destroyed. But when they were pressed by an attorney for the information, the “destroyed” records somehow magically undeleted themselves, but needed to be found via a manual search.
Numerous questions arise from this. First off, why did Jackson officials move to destroy emails that were related to matters of litigation, and why did the request to destroy them state that they weren’t when they clearly were? Jackson was issued a subpoena in 2017, put on hold due to settlement talks (but still active), which clearly stated that any documents or correspondence relating to the litigation are not allowed to be destroyed. Yet someone in Jackson ordered them to be gotten rid of. Who was it?
Samantha Novak, who put in the request to destroy the emails is the personal secretary for Jackson’s Mayor Mike Reina and she is Jackson’s Assistant Business Administrator. Who directed her to put in the request? Was it Mike Reina or perhaps Jackson’s Business Administrator Terrance Wall acting as Reina’s personal fixer? If Reina was behind the move to destroy the emails, did he commit a crime by refusing to abide by the subpoena?
Why did Jackson take the records off a digital database? They know there are multiple OPRA’s they will need to comply with – wouldn’t searching for the records manually be far more time consuming and expensive to taxpayers?
By trying to hide their misdeeds, Jackson officials only shot themselves and their residents in the foot. Their attempt to get their records far from prying eyes failed spectacularly and it will now cause them a far larger headache.
A comprehensive investigation into what is happening in Jackson is clearly needed. Should a Special Counsel be hired to head such a probe? With all the shenanigans and apparently illegal behavior going on, it’s something worth considering.