Township Resident Files OPRA Suit Against Fire District, Insurance Company

Fire district 3

A township resident is suing officials of Fire District No. 3 and a Pennsylvania insurance company, alleging that they have violated the state’s Open Public Records law.


A township resident is suing one of the township fire districts and a Pennsylvani-based insurance company over the company’s refusal to release documents relating to the settlement of a defamation lawsuit.

John Paff, a well-known open government advocate, filed the suit on Nov. 13 in state Superior Court, Somerville.

Paff is alleging that officials in Fire District No. 3 and Volunteer Fireman’s Insurance Services, Inc. violated the state’s Open Public Records Act in refusing to release the documents.

The case has a hearing set for Jan. 5, 2015.

Paff said he wants copies of the final settlement agreed to by the insurance company and Michael Gilliam, a former township fire commissioner. According to a statement by Paff on his Web blog, Gilliam sued “Fire District No. 3, Commissioner Douglas Krushinski, East Franklin Volunteer Fire Department Chief Daniel Krushinski and President Christopher Fischer and Community Volunteer Fire Department Chief Richard Ries and Board Chairman Herman Calvo …” because “Gilliam alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that he engaged in illegal or immoral liaisons with minors.”

The lawsuit was dismissed against the fire district and the two fire companies, after which Gilliam settled with the remaining defendants, Paff said.

Two requests for the settlement agreement were denied in July and August by District 3’s lawyer, who, Paff said, told him that the insurance company refused to release the documents because of a confidentiality clause.

In his lawsuit, Paff says that case law in New Jersey has held that confidentiality clauses in settlements that involve public agencies or public funds are void.

“The document requested is a public record within the meaning of the public law right of access,” according to Paff’s lawsuit. “Defendants’ interest in non-disclosure does not outweigh Plaintiff’s interest in disclosure.”

Paff said in an email that if public money is used to  pay for something, the public has a right to know the details.

“Had the individual defendants settled the lawsuit with their own money, I wouldn’t be seeking the settlement agreement,” Paff wrote. “But, the insurance carrier, VFIS, whose premiums are paid by tax dollars, paid for the representation of all the defendants and paid Gilliam’s settlement. If a public entity’s insurer foots the bill, then I believe that taxpayers have a right to know the terms and amount of settlement.”

VFIS did not respond to a request for comment.

Your Thoughts


Please Support Independent Journalism In Franklin Township!

No other media outlet covering Franklin Township brings you the depth of information presented by the Franklin Reporter & Advocate. Period. We are the only truly independent media serving the Eight Villages.

But we can only do that with your support. Please consider a yearly subscription to our online news site; at $37 a year, it’s one of the best investments you can make in our community.

To subscribe, please click here.

Other News From The Eight Villages …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *