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OPRA is a State statue that replaces the old “Right to Know Law” which governs the public’s access to government records in New Jersey. OPRA was enacted to give the public greater access to records maintained by public agencies in New Jersey. OPRA is designed to balance public interest in government records while respecting personal privacy.
A public record is one that is required by law to be kept to serve as evidence of something written, said, or done by a public officer authorized to perform that function. It can be 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.
Anyone may file an OPRA request and may do so anonymously. OPRA does not prohibit outside citizens from filing requests and while space for contact information is provided, it is not required to submit an OPRA request.
A request for access to a government record must be in writing and hand-delivered, mailed, transmitted electronically, or otherwise conveyed to the appropriate custodian. OPRA requests CANNOT be made over the telephone. The municipal clerk’s office has request forms available or they can be found online at http://www.bloomfieldtwpnj.com/documents/file/OPRA%20Request%20Form%20%20Revised%202011.pdf
The municipality will charge for the cost of printed matter if a physical copy is requested. The standard price for these expenses will be $0.05 per letter size page or smaller, $0.07 per legal size page or larger, and $1.00 for video or audio that must be downloaded onto a CD disk. It is preferred that documents be sent via E-mail but audio and videos cannot be sent via E-mail. The preferred method of payment (if any) is check or money order.
Under the OPRA law, records custodians have seven business days starting the day after an OPRA request is filed to provide the requested record.
It is important to remember that OPRA requests are requests for documents NOT information. It is necessary to have a specific government record in mind when filing a request. If a request is overly broad or does not specifically name identifiable records, a custodian may deny access. While a custodian may reach out for clarification, it is worth noting that the request may not be fulfilled as quickly. “Any and all records regarding ____” is NOT a sufficient OPRA request. The requestor should identify the specific type of document, the department it pertains to, and the dates of the requested documents.