REPLAY AVAILABLE: Defending Open Public Records Act: Live Panel 4/30/2024 at Rider University

UPDATE, May 2, 2024: Our video is mentioned in OPRA coverage by New Jersey Monitor.

UPDATE, May 1, 2024: Our video of the panel was used by NJ Spotlight News in its daily news coverage of OPRA. You can watch their report here.

LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ (SBN) — New Jersey lawmakers proposed a so-called reform bill that will essentially gut the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), a law that has helped keep NJ government honest for over two decades. Journalists and the public have used OPRA to reveal some of the state’s biggest stories — from Bridgegate to police misconduct — shedding light on corruption, fraud, waste and abuses of power. 

Now that OPRA is under attack, who will defend it? Our panel of experts discuss flaws of the bill working its way through the Legislature and provide meaningful solutions for improving access to public records in the Garden State without defanging the current law.

State Broadcast News, in cooperation with the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, produced a live broadcast of this panel discussion Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at 7 p.m. EDT.

You can watch a replay of the panel in the player below.

Host, Micah Rasmussen, Director, Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, Rider University

Micah Rasmussen is the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics. He has contributed to the public affairs of the state for more than two decades, and has more than 15 years of experience as an adjunct professor of political science.

During his undergraduate studies at Rider, Dr. Rebovich was his professor and mentor. He earned his Master of Arts in Political Science from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.

Rasmussen runs the New Jersey Model Congress, a civics education program he founded. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Upper Freehold Township, where he advocates for the preservation of farmland and open space. 

Panelists

Miriam Ascarelli is a senior lecturer in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at New Jersey Institute of Technology and the faculty advisor to NJIT’s student newspaper, The Vector. Before teaching, she was a full-time reporter and editor at news organizations in the Midwest and the Northeast. She is a former president of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Tim Carroll works in government communications for federal, state and local officials and agencies. He’s a former journalist and a proponent of government transparency.

Charlie Kratovil is a journalist and community organizer based in New Brunswick. He is the director of the government transparency platform OPRAmachine, editor of the community news outlet New Brunswick Today, and a board member at the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government. Charlie graduated from Rutgers University in 2009 with a degree in journalism and media studies. Charlie has worked with attorneys to file several transparency and accountability lawsuits. He’s a plaintiff in one of the first cases regarding the controversial Daniel’s Law.

Krystal Knapp is the founder of the recently launched nonpartisan investigative news nonprofit The Jersey Vindicator, which focuses on government accountability and transparency. In 2011, she founded the hyperlocal news site Planet Princeton. She worked at the Trenton Times for a decade and has used OPRA since the law was passed in 2002. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, a master’s of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a graduate certificate in entrepreneurial journalism from the Craig Newmark School at CUNY. 

For more than 20 years, News 12 viewers have trusted Walt Kane to investigate the issues that matter most. A 20-time Emmy winner, his Kane In Your Corner investigations have led to more than a dozen new laws, freed the wrongly convicted, uncovered millions of dollars in government waste, and helped thousands. The Society of Professional Journalists describes Walt’s work as being “in the highest traditions of investigative journalism.”

With decades of litigation experience, Walter Luers has the respect of the bench and bar. He joined Cohn Lifland in late 2020 and leads the firm’s Open Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act practice. Walter has successfully represented media organizations, and other private entities, non-profits corporations and individuals in public records cases across New Jersey. His cases have resulted in seven New Jersey Supreme Court opinions, eight published Appellate Division opinions and dozens of other decisions, including Paff v. Galloway, 229 N.J. 340 (2017), a landmark decision that ensured public access to electronically stored information possessed by state and municipal governmental bodies. 

Delano Massey leads the Axios Local newsroom alongside Executive Editor Holly Moore. Massey joined Axios from CNN where he created and stood up CNN’s Race and Equality team, and served as a supervising producer for the Justice team in Washington D.C. Massey led the Washington-based team of producers, reporters, and writers who cover the justice department, legal and criminal issues, Supreme Court, Department of Homeland Security, and immigration. 

John P. “JP” Schmidt, MLS, RMC, CMR, received a degree in politics with a minor in media studies from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He completed his graduate education from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in 2017. He has served as a commissioner for the Clementon Borough Housing Authority since 2011 and has been board chairman since 2015. He is licensed as a Registered Municipal Clerk and was a municipal clerk in Morris and Atlantic counties. He works for the Partnership for Heliophysics and Space Environment Research at Catholic University, which supports the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Heliophysics Science Division.