Friday, February 19, 2016

OPRA's "immediate access" provision tested in GRC filing.

The New Jersey Government Records Council has been asked to enforce a former Clifton City councilwoman's right to "immediate access" to a contract between the Clifton Board of Education and a contractor who was hired to remove trees from a local school.

The right to immediately access certain government records is set forth in N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(e) which states that "immediate access ordinarily shall be granted to budgets, bills, vouchers, contracts, including collective negotiations agreements and individual employment contracts, and public employee salary and overtime information."

According to her February 17, 2016 Denial of Access Complaint, former City councilwoman Mary Sadrakula was initially "given the runaround" when she visited the school board's offices on February 16, 2016 to get a copy of the board's contract with a tree removal contractor.  After initially being told that "she could not review the requested records," she was later allowed to look at the records but was refused photocopies of them and was not allowed to photograph them with her cell phone.

According to the complaint, filed by Hackensack lawyer CJ Griffin, a board employee had already made copies of the requested records, but taunted Sadrakula by making "a show of tearing up the copies."

The school board told Sadrakula that she would receive copies of the records in seven business days.  But, Sadrakula wanted copies of the records immediately so that she could bring them to a February 17, 2016 school board meeting.  Sadrakula claims that "the only reason the [school board]  did not want [her] to have the requested records in her possession is because they did not want her to have the records for the meeting."

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