OPEN PUBLIC RECORDS (OPRA)
The Municipal Clerk of the Borough of Florham Park is the custodian of all records for the municipality. Please send all requests for public documents to Sheila Williams, Borough Clerk. If you have questions regarding your request, or to determine the cost to process your request, contact Mrs. Williams via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Via Regular mail or by Fax:
Sheila Williams, R.M.C.
111 Ridgedale Avenue, Florham Park, NJ 07932
Frequently Asked Questions About OPRA:
What is OPRA? Open Public Records Act – N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et. seq. The Open Public Records Act (OPRA) is a State law to increase the public’s accessibility to view and copy government records maintained by public agencies in the State. Additionally it provides the public a procedure to register a complaint when a request for access to government records is denied. A “government record” is defined as a physical record that has been generated, maintained, or received by a public agency in the course of official business.
What public agencies are covered under OPRA? OPRA applies primarily to executive branch of State government, certain records of the State Legislature, state authorities, commissions, state colleges and universities, county governments, municipalities, fire districts, school boards, planning and zoning boards and other county and local boards, agencies and authorities. OPRA does not cover the judicial branch of government.
Are all government records accessible to the public? While most government records are accessible to public access, some are not. Information received by a State Senator or General Assembly member, from, or concerning, a constituent is not considered a government record. The same is true for communication prepared for State Senators or Assemblymen. Other records that are not disclosed to the public include: information that would threaten homeland security; personal information; interfere with competitive business practices. Information on other exceptions to disclosure can be obtained from the Government Records Council.
Why are some records not disclosed? While OPRA mandates that limitations on the public’s right of access should be decided in the public’s favor, a public agency is required to keep a citizen’s personal information from public access when disclosure would violate the citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Subsequently, it may be necessary for the public agencies to redact certain personal information (i.e. social security, credit card, driver’s license or unlisted telephone numbers) from the record before releasing it to the public.
How do I obtain government records from public agencies? OPRA requires that all public agencies appoint a Records Custodian. It is the function of the Custodian to release government records to the public. People who want to obtain public records should contact the Custodian of the public agency that holds those records. In addition, OPRA requires that all public agencies adopt a Records Request Form. This form must be filled out and hand-delivered, mailed, or transmitted electronically, but cannot be transmitted verbally. Contact the agency that you are requesting document from for specific instruction on how to file the form.
Do I have to have a formal Records Request form for all government records that I request? Many public agencies will continue to use non-OPRA forms for routine records requests that are usually filled promptly. In the event this type of informal request results in a denial, the Records Custodian is obligated to provide a formal denial that includes information about OPRA appeal rights.
How long will it take the Custodian to respond to me? The Records Custodian must comply with the request “as soon as possible,” but no later than seven business days after the request is received. Requests for access to budgets, bills, vouchers, and contracts must be processed immediately. The seven-day “clock” starts the day after the request is received. If a record is in storage or archived, the Custodian will advise the requester within seven business days and tell the requester when the record will beavailable.
Are there fees involved? The public agency can only charge the public for the cost of copies of printed government records. The fee structure will not exceed $.05 for and 8 1/2 x 11 page or $.07 for 8 1/2 x 14 sheets. If the requester asks for a record to be copied in a particular format, and the public agency is able to honor that request, the agency may charge an additional charge to cover the cost for any extensive use of information technology or for the labor cost of personnel providing the service. In such cases the custodian may require a deposit when you submit your request.
Can my request be legitimately denied? Yes, reasons for denial reside for the most part in OPRA’s exceptions. Additionally a request maybe denied if the requester fails to properly fill out the records request form or fails to provide proper identification.
What happens if my request is denied? If your request for a government record is denied, there are two avenues of redress. You may file a suit in Superior Court, or you may apply to the Government Records Council for intervention.
What is the Government Records Council? The Government Records Council (GRC), is part of the State’s Department of Community Affairs, is charged with providing assistance to the public and records custodians, and with hearing complaints about denial of access to records. The GRC is composed of the Commissioners of Community Affairs and Education (or their designees); and three members of the public. An Executive Director, assisted by professional and clerical staff administer the work of the GRC. For further information on the GRC, please visit their website at www.state.nj.us/grc/.