What is OPRA? OPRA is a New Jersey statute that governs the public's access to government records in New Jersey. The law is compiled in the statutes as N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq.
Specifically, OPRA is intended to:
- Expand the public's right of access to government records;
- Create an administrative appeals process if access is denied; and
- Define what records are and are not "government records."
What is an OPRA Request? An official OPRA request is a request for government records submitted to a public agency either: on an official OPRA request form; or an otherwise written request that clearly references OPRA. If a written request does not mention OPRA anywhere, it is not an OPRA request. Verbal requests are never OPRA requests.
How long will it take to receive a response to my request? By law we must respond within 7 days of receipt of the request. However, there may be times where the Borough may ask for additional time to properly respond.
What is a "government record?" OPRA specifically defines a government record as:
"... any paper, written or printed book, document, drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data processed or image processed document, information stored or maintained electronically or by sound-recording or in a similar device, or any copy thereof, that has been made, maintained or kept on file ... or that has been received in the course of his or its official business ..." (Emphasis added.) N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1.
Generally stated, a "government record" means any record that has been made, maintained, or kept on file in the course of official business, or that has been received in the course of official business.
OPRA covers more than just paper records. Under OPRA, a "government record" includes printed records, tape recordings, microfilm, electronically stored records (including e-mails and data sets stored in a database), books, maps, photographs, etc.
All government records are subject to public access unless they are specifically exempt under OPRA or any other law. There are 24 specific exemptions contained in OPRA.
Example of an overly broad request: "Any and all records related to the construction of the new high school."The term "records" does not reasonably identify a specific government record.
Example of a valid request: "Any and all e-mails between Jane Doe and John Smith regarding the construction of the new high school from January 1, 2009 to February 28, 2009."
This request identifies a specific type of record, parties to the correspondence, dates and subject matter.
Example of a request that requires research: "all meeting minutes from 2011 in which the Council discussed Jane Doe, Human Resource Manager."
This request is invalid because it requires the custodian to research/read through all the 2011 minutes to determine when the Council discussed Jane Doe, Human Resource Manager.
Example of a valid request: "all meeting minutes from 2011."
The requestor would then have to conduct his own research to determine which minutes contain the subjects in which he is interested.
A custodian may either deny an overly broad/unclear request, or seek clarification of the request. The custodian's request for clarification must be in writing, within seven (7) business days of receipt of the request. If a custodian seeks clarification of an OPRA request, the response time clock stops until the requestor provides a response to the custodian.
Can I request copies of emails? Yes, however, you must provide TO, FROM, SUBJECT, and DATE or DATE RANGE
Can I request birth, death and marriage certificates? Yes, but not via this portal. You must contact the Office of Vital Statistics to make a request. Information can be found at www.belmar.com.