Newspaper wins OPRA court fight with Sports and Exposition Authority

The Star-Ledger of Newark has won an open public records decision involving the N.J. Sports and Exposition Authority.

The newspaper had been battling for access to unredacted copies of contracts, and an appellate court ruled this morning that “disclosure of the terms of the licensing agreements is mandated by OPRA.’’

The court ruled that “The redacted terms relating to the use of a state facility do not fall within the scope of ‘trade secrets’ or ‘proprietary commercial or financial information.'”

Among other things, the paper had been seeking contracts for concerts or other events from Jan. 1, 2007, to the present, as well as letters or emails between Authority officials and lawmakers or promoters.

The Authority had been arguing that the information it “blacked-out’’ would have given business advantages to competing bidders. It further argued that the “industry’’ generally considers the terms of artist contracts proprietary.

The court disagreed, and it also turned aside the Authority’s assertion that the newspaper “was serving as a proxy to the Prudential Center,’’ and was motivated to undermine the IZOD Center.

“This bald assertion is unaccompanied by any evidence and flies in the face of the Court’s recognition that newspapers ‘keep a watchful eye’ on the workings of government,” the ruling stated today.

The Authority as a state agency operates several facilities, including the Meadowlands Sports Complex (consisting of the IZOD Center, the Meadowlands Racetrack, and the MetLife Stadium), Monmouth Park Racetrack, the Atlantic City Convention Center and Visitors Center (which manages Boardwalk Hall), and the Wildwoods Convention Center.

Newspaper wins OPRA court fight with Sports and Exposition Authority