According the report, the councilwoman requested all invoices billed to the city by the law firm Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader between January and October of last year, apparently in an effort to continue her personal investigation into Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla, who took a partnership with the firm in August. (Bhalla has stated that he began abstaining on all votes relating to the firm after he was hired, a claim that was substantiated by city records.)
But when the city complied with Mason’s request, filed through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), the files she received were redacted to the point of uselessness, NJ.com reported. Mason was billed $130 for the documents, but “all but a few verbs” were blacked out. According to Mason’s lawyer, Jeffrey Kantowitz, the amount redacted exceeds what is allowed by attorney-client privilege laws.
City spokesman Juan Melli declined to comment on Mason’s suit, citing ongoing litigation.
The latest suit is hardly the first time Mason has taken issue with Bhalla, who staunchly defended himself against claims that he had a conflict of interest when voting on Florio Perrucci contracts while he was in negotiations with the firm over his subsequent partnership. At one point, Mason tried to introduce a council resolution condemning Bhalla’s activities, but it was quickly shot down by then-Council President Peter Cunningham.
Prior to his reelection on a ticket with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Bhalla said he would file a defamation suit against Mason following Election Day, though it’s unclear if such a suit has been filed. – Dean DeChiaro