January 24, 2007

New Jersey Press Association joins the UCWA in OPRA lawsuit

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Richard Gutman, Esq. 973-744-6038
Contact: Tina Renna, President Union County Watchdog Association, Inc. 908-709-0530

Union County, N.J.­ – The New Jersey Press Association has been granted a motion to participate as a friend of the court on behalf of a lawsuit filed by Tina Renna on behalf of the Union County Watchdog Association against Union County government over its recent policy change that requires citizens to submit any and all public records requests on the county's official request form.

A copy of the NJPA Amicus Brief can been seen by clicking HERE

A copy of the lawsuit, filed in Superior Court can been seen by clicking HERE

The County's policy change came on the heels of a Feb. 17, 2006 Advisory Opinion issued by the Government Records Council (GRC). The GRC is the agency created by law in 2002 to enforce the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). The GRC's advisory opinion can been seen by clicking HERE

Renna, who is also a board member of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, said that she is challenging this new procedure on behalf of records requesters throughout the state.

"The whole idea behind OPRA is to make public records access quick and easy to get," she said. "Under the new policy, a person seeking a public record must now get a copy of a government agency's official records request form before even being able to submit a request." This causes a significant delay, she noted, because most agencies, do not post a copy of its official record request form on their official Web sites.

Under the Federal Freedom of Information Act you can verbally request federal public records. New Jersey's Open Public Records Act simply states that a request must be made in writing.

“The fact that freeholders and county management are given electronic tools such as Blackberries and cell phones and have their home internet service all paid for at taxpayer’s expense yet a taxpayer can't simply send an email to place an OPRA request is outrageous and just an attempt to discourage and hinder the public from seeking and accessing information," she said.

The Union County Watchdog Association routinely acquires public records and posts them on their website for free public access. You can access their site by clicking HERE