NJ DMAVA OPRA 2013 Log

Beryl Lipton filed this request with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs of New Jersey.
Due June 5, 2014
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Beryl C.D. Lipton

From: Mark A. Preston

Mr. Beryl Lipton
MuckRock News
PO Box 55819
Boston MA 02205 5819

Subject: Open Public Records Act (OPRA) Request #W86298

Dear Mr. Lipton,

The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has reviewed your request for government records (#W86298). Your request has been denied for the following reasons.

Other entities' OPRA requests are exempt from disclosure under OPRA, as are the responses of government agencies to those OPRA requests. The Appellate Division has recognized that there is an "interest of third parties in protecting the confidentiality of their requests for access to public documents" under OPRA. Gannett N.J. Partners, LP v. Cnty. of Middlesex, 379 N.J. Super 205, 212 (App. Div 2005). For that reason, "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." Ibid. Further, OPRA exempts "information which, if disclosed, would give an advantage to competitors," N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1 and Gannett, supra.

If you have any questions related to the disposition of this request please contact the NJDMAVA Custodian of Records. Please reference your request number in any contact or correspondence.

MARK A. PRESTON
Chief, Administrative Services Bureau, IASD
Custodian of Records
NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
WORK: (609) 530-6898 FAX: (609) 530-7193

Please note my new e-mail address: mark.preston@dmava.nj.gov; the old email address will auto-forward messages for some duration.

-----Original Message-----
From: OPRAreturn@oit.state.nj.us [mailto:OPRAreturn@oit.state.nj.us]
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2014 12:12 AM
To: DMAVA_CustodianOfRecords
Subject: Government Records Request W86298

********************************************************************************************

Below is the information submitted by the OPRA requestor for Govt. Records Request # W86298.
Please use the OPRA Tracking System to process Govt.Records Request # W86298.

********************************************************************************************
State Agency: Military and Veterans' Affairs

Requestor Name: Beryl Lipton
Company: MuckRock News
Address: PO Box 55819
Boston MA 02205 5819
Email: beryl@muckrock.com
Telephone: 207 418 6017

Convicted of indictable offense: NO

Preferred Delivery: E-Mail
Maximum Authorized Cost: $1
Payment Method: None Selected

Requested Information: A list of all requests filed with the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs under New Jersey's Open Public Records Act (OPRA) during the year 2013. For each request, the list should contain the identity of the requester, the date of the request, a description of the requested records, and the status of the request.

From: Mark A. Preston

Sir,

We were having problems with our scanner, but it is now fixed. Please find attached the signed document that was sent as an email earlier this morning.

MARK A. PRESTON
Chief, Administrative Services Bureau, IASD
NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
Colonel, US Army

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Mr. Preston,

Thank you for your response to my request for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs'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.

Sincerely,

Beryl C.D. Lipton

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello,

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

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello,

I hope this message finds you well. I am wondering whether further consideration has been given to this request in light of my last message concerning the ruling in Scheeler v. Office of the Governor. Confirmation of receipt of this and the previous message would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Beryl C.D. Lipton

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