What is the Open Public Records Act (OPRA)?
OPRA is a state law enacted to give the public greater access to government records maintained by public agencies in New Jersey.
Who can obtain government records under the Open Public Records Act?
Any citizen of New Jersey has the right under OPRA to examine or obtain copies of those government records that are not subject to exceptions from disclosure.
Does the Open Public Records Act apply to State as well as local government agencies ?
How does the Open Public Records Act, (PL 2001, c.404) differ from its predecessor the "Right To Know Law?"
OPRA expands the intent of the Right To Know Law by re-defining what records are available to the public, by setting standards for accessing those records, and penalties for failing to disclose them.
Are there any exceptions under the Open Public Records Act?
There are a number of exceptions to OPRA, including but not limited to information that if disclosed might violate a citizen's reasonable expectation of privacy.
Are government records protected from disclosure by statute, resolution, Executive order of the Governor, court ruling or Federal law?
Certain government records are protected by all of the above means.
Are state and local government agencies exempt under OPRA from disclosing procurement records concerning computer and building security measures?
OPRA exempts from disclosure administrative or technical information regarding computer and building security measures that, if disclosed, would create security problems.
Is information concerning surveillance equipment and investigatory services available to the public?
Both state and local government agencies are exempt from disclosing security measures and surveillance techniques, if disclosure creates a risk to the safety of people or property.
Is there a fee for copying government records? If so, what is that cost?
Yes, there is a fee. Most paper records may be copied at the standard rate of $.10 per page. If material not easily copied on office equipment is requested, the cost can be higher, depending on the record and how it is copied.
If there is an existing law or regulation governing the fee assessed for duplication of a government record by an agency, do the fees imposed under OPRA supersede the law or regulation?
No, OPRA does not supersede laws or regulations that set fees for specific types of records.
Are there any fees or special service charges that can be imposed for items requested?
Special charges may be set for duplication when the copies take special effort or equipment. This may occur when records cannot be copied by equipment owned by the agency.
May the custodian of records impose a special service charge to cover the cost of labor when complying with the request for documents involves use of technology?
Yes. In cases where requests for records require an extraordinary expenditure of time and effort and/or when a request for records is in a medium not routinely used by the BPU and require a substantial amount of manipulation or programming of information technology, the BPU may charge, in addition to the cost of duplication, a special reasonable fee related to its cost of making the copy.
What if my request for government records is denied or if information redacted or deleted is essential to my research? Do I have any recourse?
You have the right under OPRA to appeal the custodian's denial of your request either to the Government Records Council or the Superior Court.
Do I have to be told why a request for access is denied and must I be notified of my right to appeal my denial of government records?
Yes. Any time you are denied access, there must be a reason, and you must be advised of your rights of appeal. A notice of how to appeal a denial must also be posted in the record custodian's office and is included on the Records Request Form.
How do I file an appeal?
A complaint can be filed with the Government Records Council at www.nj.gov/grc or by phone (Toll Free: (866)850-0511). Alternatively, the requester may file an appeal in Superior Court. Advice of an attorney is advised.
Various state and federal laws, including but not limited to the Open Public Records Act, the Domestic Security Act, as well as the rules of Board of Public Utilities' under title 14, provide exceptions for the release of government records.
The BPU will not release the following information:
o Trade Secrets
o Propriety Commercial or Financial Information
o Information which, if disclosed, would be likely to cause damage to either a competitive or bidding position
o Emergency or security information regarding any portion of utility infrastructure, which, if disclosed, would compromise security
o Investigative reports pending the final outcome of the investigation
o Inter- or intra-agency "advisory, consultative, or deliberative material"
o Any record within the attorney-client privilege
o Administrative or technical information about computers which, if disclosed, would jeopardize their security
o Emergency or security information regarding any building or facility which, if disclosed, would compromise security
o Security or surveillance information which, if disclosed, could risk the general safety of the public
o Information about sexual harassment complaints or grievances, and information between an agency and an insurer
o Personal information such as social security, drivers license, credit card, and unlisted phone numbers (additional protections are granted to victims of crimes)
o Information kept confidential under court order.
How do I request a government record from the Board of Public Utilities?
All requests for government records to be filed under OPRA must be submitted on the Board's Records Request Form.
Where do I send the completed form?
The completed Records Request Form should be mailed to: Records Custodian, Board of Public Utilities, P.O. Box 350 Trenton, NJ 08625-0350 The form may also be filed electronically at www.nj.gov/grc. Forms will not be accepted by fax.
What if I am not sure of the exact documents I want?
The Board's Staff will assist you in identifying the documents you are looking for. You may contact the appropriate staff at (609)292-2338 or e-mail email@example.com. Please remember that a docket number, agenda date and information related to the issue or parties will facilitate the processing of your request.
When does the Board have to respond to my request?
Once your request is deemed complete, the Board has seven business days to respond to you. Some records may be in storage or unavailable. If this is the case, you will be contacted within seven business days regarding your request.
Do I have to file a Records Request Form to obtain public documents from the Board?
A number of frequently requested documents are being posted on the Board's website for easy access. You can still request documents that are available to the public, but you will not be entitled to the rights and privileges under OPRA unless the request is made on the Records Request Form.
What if the Board denies my request for government records?
If the Board denies your request for records, you will be provided with a reason for the denial. If you believe the denial was made in error, you may file an appeal with the Government Records Council (www.nj.gov/grc) or in Superior Court.