|Submitted||May 4, 2014|
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To Whom It May Concern:
The attached request was submitted to your office on May 4, 2014. A response has not yet been received. Please provide an update on this request. Feel free to contact me via email.
Beryl C.D. Lipton
Sent on behalf of Louis A. Bruni, NJ Department of Agriculture’s Records Custodian.
Hello Mr. Bruni,
Thank you for your response to my request for the Department of Agriculture's log of 2013 OPRA requests. I hope that you can please clarify the reasons for which the request has been rejected.
It seems as though the list of requests, their statuses, and the other basic data necessary for inventory and organizational purposes (the agency’s OPRA log) is a standard government public record. As such it should be available under OPRA. As indicated on page 7 of the New Jersey Open Public Records Act Handbook for Records Custodians, “All government records are subject to public access unless specifically exempt under OPRA or any other law.” I don’t see the record in question as being specifically exempted by the case to which you referred nor was it covered by the specific exemptions contained in OPRA; the exemption for “information which, if disclosed would give an advantage to competitors” does not seem to apply in this case.
Page six of the attached version of the case referred to in your response (Gannett N.J. Partners, LP v. Cnty. of Middlesex, 379 N.J. Super. 205, 212 (App. Div 2005)) includes the reasoning mentioned in your rejection, specifically that “‘OPRA does not authorize a party to make a blanket request for every document a public agency has provided another party in response to an OPRA request,’ nor does it permit requests that would reveal ‘the nature and scope of a third party’s inquiry to a government agency.’” My request for the OPRA log does not ask for the documents provided to another agency. It would not be reasonable to assume that by obtaining a list of requests one would be able to determine the nature of another party’s interest and purpose in requesting particular documents. The idea, it seems to me, is that by obtaining all of the primary documents requested by a third party, one could then determine the nature and scope, which may also be unreasonable attitude, though is not relevant in this matter. I think along those lines, the idea of “advantage to competitors” based on the release of the OPRA log is a stretch, particularly considering that the log should be publicly available to all.
If you could clarify these points, I would appreciate it. I understand that the appropriate channel of appeal would be the Government Records Council, but the chance to understand the reasoning for denial would be helpful for all.
Thank you for your help,
Beryl C.D. Lipton
Yesterday, the case Scheeler v. Office of the Governor, et. al. was settled in Mercer County Superior Court. The case was in regards to the denials of release of OPRA logs by New Jersey state agencies (as occurred with this request), and the court ruled in favor of the release of the records. (For reports regarding this ruling please see: https://www.aclu-nj.org/news/2014/07/21/judge-orders-christie-administration-release-records ; http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/ap/new-jersey-judge-to-decide-if-opra-requests-are-public/article_e155754c-10c0-11e4-955f-001a4bcf887a.html?utm_content=buffer157e5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer).
As indicated by this ruling, the denial that your agency provided me was unwarranted and I would appreciate the release of the requested material before any further undue inconvenience is incurred.
Thank you so much for your time and help,
Beryl C.D. Lipton
I'm interested in revisiting this request, as I now believe that the public nature of these records has been decided by the courts. Would it be possible to release an updated set of OPRA logs at this point?
Thanks so much for your help.