After Newark officials were order to release emails about the $100-million donation Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made to the city’s schools in 2010, they showed it never happened.
The emails revealed the donation was dismissed by one of Mayor Cory Booker's top aides as too small, according to NJ.com. However the emails also showed Newark philanthropist Ray Chambers was in favor of it.
“It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit and ruling from the judge to force the City of Newark to turn over public documents," the American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director, Ed Barocas, said. "We and our clients will now review the documents. And if there are no bombshells in these emails, the public has a right to ask why the city was so adamant in its refusal to release them, costing the city significant legal fees.”
The emails were released after an Essex County Superior Court judge ordered Newark officials to do so on Dec. 19.
The Wednesday ruling said the city must release 36 emails exchanged between Booker, Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson and other public officials about the donation.
City officials did not immediately repsond to a request for comment Thursday.
The ruling, issued by Judge Rachel Davidson, came after the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sued the city in August 2011 calling for more transparency about the $100-million pledge. The ACLU sued the city on behalf the Secondary Parent Council, a group of Newark parents.
The city originally said it did not have any emails or documents about the grant. However, that argument was rescinded in January 2012 during court hearings.
The city then argued the emails were shielded from being released by mayoral executive privilege, and Booker was not acting as mayor when he accepted Zuckerberg’s donation on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2010.
Davidson rejected the city’s arguments, nothing there are repeated mentions of Booker touting the grant on both his own and the city’s website.
“The fact that some of the emails were sent to the mayor using a personal, or perhaps, a campaign-related email address does not exempt them from being considered a public record,” Davidson said in a press release.