Thursday, May 18, 2017

Court: OPRA Section 10 allows requestors to ask for personnel "information," does not require a request to be for specific, identifiable records.

In a May 11, 2017 unpublished opinion, Monmouth County Superior Court Assignment Judge Lisa B. Thornton ruled that N.J.S.A. 47:1A-10 requires a records custodian to disclose an employee's "name, title, position, salary, payroll record, length of service, date of separation and the reason therefor, and the amount and type of any pension received" even if the request asked for that information instead of a specific, identifiable government record that contained that information.

On September 27, 2016, Libertarians for Transparent Government, a NJ nonprofit corporation (LFTG), submitted an OPRA request for the "date of separation and reason therefor" regarding a school district's former business administrator.  The school district's custodian denied the request because it asked for "information" as opposed to identifiable records.  Judge Thornton wrote:

There is no question that defendant violated the provisions of OPRA by failing to provide information regarding [the former business administrator's] date of separation and the "reason therefor." The court is not persuaded by defendant's argument that the request constituted a request for "information" as opposed to "government records." A plain reading of the statute reveals that "information," in the form of "an individual's name, title, position, salary payroll record, length of service, date of separation and the reason therefor" is specifically discoverable pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-10.

There are other aspects to this case, which are explained in my October 30, 2016 article.

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