Former town clerk sues over access to records

Nobles serves notice of action at council session

September 06, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A former town clerk served the New Windsor mayor and Town Council last night with notice of a lawsuit that alleges a failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

Sharon P. Nobles had made a written request last month to Mayor Sam Pierce asking to inspect public records. Nobles, who served as town clerk for nearly two years under former Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr., asked for copies of checks from the general and water-sewer funds and from payroll. She was denied the payroll information.

"These are public documents, and it is illegal for you to deny access," Nobles said at the monthly council session last night.

She then handed copies of the lawsuit to each official. She asks that the town pay the cost of the proceeding and her attorney fees, and that the Circuit Court award punitive damages. No amount was listed.

"I am a taxpayer and a resident of this town," Nobles said, explaining her rationale for the suit. "The mayor [Pierce] requested this same information himself, when he was just a citizen."

Gullo, an attorney and now a councilman on the panel he led for eight years, said he told Pierce during a closed work session Aug. 20 that the information had to be disclosed. The town's letter to Nobles, denying her access, was dated Aug. 22.

"If [council members'] opinions don't matter, we can do without meetings," Gullo said.

After the meeting, the council went into closed session with Michelle Ostrander, town attorney. She said the sheriff's department would officially serve the suit within the next few weeks.

Ostrander said Nobles' action last night "is a notice of the suit; it is not the serving of it. We cannot comment on ongoing litigation."

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