1. State Law requires that requests for access to public records be in writing. You must complete, sign and date the OPRA request form and deliver it in person, by mail or electronically during regular business hours to the appropriate custodian of the record requested. Your request is not considered filed until received by the appropriate custodian of the record requested. If you submit the request form to any other officer or employee of the County or affiliated agency, that person does not have the authority to accept your request form and you will be directed to the appropriate custodian.
2. If you submit a request for access to government records to someone other than the appropriate custodian, do not complete the OPRA request form, or attempt to make a request for access by telephone or fax. The Open Public Records Act and its deadlines and remedies will not apply to your request.
3. The fees for photocopying 8"x 11" government records in printed form are listed on the front of the OPRA request form. You will be notified of any special charges or other additional charges authorized by State law or regulation before processing your request. Payment shall be made by cash, certified check or money order payable to the "County of Essex".
Special Service Charges: Whenever the nature, format, manner or collation, or volume of the records requested for inspection, examination, or copying involves an extraordinary expenditure of time and effort or cannot be reproduced by ordinary document copying equipment, the County will charge, in addition to the actual cost of duplication, a special service charge based upon its actual costs. Special Service Charges include charges for the County's time in searching for records and supervising document searches, inspections, or examinations. The requester will be allowed one free man hour credited to a search, inspection, or supervision, and will then be notified that the County will charge $25.00 per man hour billed in
six-minute increments for any additional time incurred toward a search, inspection, or examination.
4. Requests with estimated fees exceeding $25.00 must be accompanied by a 50% deposit. Anonymous requests, when permitted, require a deposit of 100% of the estimated fees and costs. All balances are agreed to be paid by the requester in full upon delivery of the records.
5. By State Law, a custodian must deny access to a person who is convicted of an indictable offense in New Jersey, any other state, or the United States, who is seeking government records containing personal information pertaining to the person's victim or the victim's family.
6. By law, the County will notify you that it grants or denies a request for access to government records within seven business days after the custodian of the record requested receives the request, provided that the record is currently available and not in storage or archived. If the record requested is not currently available or is in storage or archived, the custodian will advise you within seven business days when the record can be made available and the estimated cost. You may agree to extend the time for granting or denying your request or making records available.
7. You may be denied access to a government record if you seek privileged or confidential records or your request would substantially disrupt agency operations and the custodian is unable to reach a reasonable solution with you.
8. If the County is unable to comply with your request for access to a government record, the custodian will indicate the reasons for denial on the request form and send you a signed and dated copy.
9. Except as otherwise provided by law or by agreement with the requester, if the custodian of the record requested fails to respond to you within seven business days of receiving a written, signed requested form, the failure to respond will be considered a denial of your request.
10. If your request for access to government records has been denied or unfilled within the time permitted by law, you have a right to challenge the decision denying you access. At your option, you may either institute a proceeding in the Superior Court of New Jersey or file a complaint in writing with the Government Records Council (GRC) located in the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. You may contact the GRC by telephone at 866-850-0511.
11. Information provided on the OPRA request may be subject to disclosure under the Open Public Records Act.
12. Inspection Procedures: To maintain the integrity of County records, records may be inspected under the supervision of a designated county representative. Applicants shall not be permitted to carry a briefcase, overcoat, bags, other papers, or similar items into the inspection area; and the applicant is hereby advised that the documents to be reviewed are government records and that N.J.S.A. 2C:21-4 prohibits any person from destroying, removing, concealing, or tampering with any such record and that all records must be returned in the order and condition provided.
13. Public record: The term "public records" includes those records determined to be public in accordance with N.J.S.A. 47:1 A-1. The term does not include employee personnel files, police investigation records, public assistance files or other matters in which there is a right of privacy or confidentiality or which is specifically exempted by law. The term also does not include the following:
a. information which constitutes an unwarranted invasion of individual privacy, such as any records, dates, reports, recommendations or other personal material of any educational, training, social service, medical, health, custodial, child protection, rehabilitation, legal defense, welfare, housing, relocation, insurance and similar program or institution operated by a County body pertaining to any specific individual admitted to or served by such institution or program, including but not limited to information relative to the individual's personal and family circumstances, and any material pertaining to admission, discharge, treatment, progress or condition of all individuals concerned;
b. official information;
c. welfare applications, psychiatric or psychological reports, medical reports, or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court records;
d. water service agreements;
e. claims analysis reports;
f. unapproved meeting minutes;
g. materials reflecting deliberative or policy making processes;
h. pleadings and other records on file with the courts;
i. information which endangers the physical safety of anyone or safety of public property;
j. confidential law enforcement records;
k. rap sheets, criminal case histories, or other criminal information database records or documents that are protected from discovery;
l. disciplinary and investigative reports, including those from informants, which would impede ongoing investigations, create a risk of reprisal, or interfere with the security or operation of the jail;
m. grand jury proceedings which are protected from disclosure;
n. crime victim information; expunged or sealed criminal records;
o. expense allowance records;
p. any record required by law, regulation, or court rule to remain confidential. Records custodians should check with County Counsel before releasing documents (or partially redacted documents) which they believe may not be public records, or which might otherwise contain private, privileged or confidential information.
For further Open Public Record Information and assistance contact: New Jersey Government Records Council, Toll-free help-line: 866-850-0511
Regular Office: 609-292-6830 / Fax: 609-633-6337 E-Mail: GRC@dca.state.nj.us