There is currently proposed legislation that could make whistleblower settlement agreements in New Jersey public record when they involve public entities. The bill aims to create more transparency with public entities and to keep the public informed how taxpayer funds are being allocated. The legislation has already been approved by the New Jersey Assembly.
Specifically, the bill would bar public entities and their employees from confidential settlements when it comes to whistleblower cases. Exceptions to the rule would include issues that pose a national security threat. The bill aims to give further protection under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act and hopes to discourage under the table deals and retaliation by bringing these cases to the eye of the public.
What Information Would Be Public
The bill goes along the lines of protections already afforded by the open public records laws currently in place. The Open Public Records Act (OPRA) has replaced the “Right to Know Law” and governs the public’s access to government records in New Jersey. Currently, the OPRA intends to:
- Expand the right of access to government records for the public
- Define what constitutes as government records
- Creates and defines the administrative appeals process in the event access is denied
Under the new bill, all settlement agreements will be prominently displayed on the Attorney General’s website in a searchable format. Information required in the format includes:
- The specific date the agreement was signed
- A description of the claim by the defendant
- Names of the parties involved in the agreement
- The total amount in which each party is required to pay
- The total amount of compensation recovered, including compensation that extends outside of legal counsel
Those in support of the bill have expressed it is a necessary protection that will prevent public entities from keeping important information from the public. They also feel it will help against abuse in expenditure of public funds.
If you are considering blowing the whistle on a public entity, our South Jersey whistleblower lawyers at Bochetto & Lentz can help. We have worked with whistleblower cases of all types and understand the specific laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as they apply to unique cases. Let us put our years of experience to work for you.