Sunday, August 13, 2017
Hunterdon Prosecutor asked to allow OPRA requests to be submitted electronically.
Update 08/24/17: The Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office updated its OPRA web page to advise records requestors that OPRA requests "can be mailed, sent electronically (FAX: 908-806-4618 or EMAIL: email@example.com), or presented in person to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office." As can be seen by an archived page, the previous version of the page advised requestors only that requests "can be mailed or presented in person to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office." Similarly the previous OPRA request form and the present form differ in that the new form informs requestors that they may submit their request electronically.
The following letter was sent by Libertarians for Transparent Government, a non-profit I serve as executive director, to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's office. At issue is that office's insistence that OPRA requestors submit their requests only by hand-delivery or regular mail.
Deborah D. Factor, First Assistant
Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office
65 Park Avenue
Flemington, NJ 08822-0756
Via fax to 908-806-4618 and e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
RE: Open Public Records Act
Dear First Assistant Factor:
Your office's on-line instructions to the public on how to submit an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request do not provide a way for those requests to be e-mailed or faxed to your office. Rather, the page states that "[o]nce fully completed, the request form can be mailed or presented in person to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office." Your OPRA form itself states that "[t]he completed request form may only be either mailed or hand-delivered."
Your office's requirement that citizens use only hand-delivery or U.S. mail to submit OPRA requests is not only out-of-step with the way people communicate in the 21st Century, but also runs afoul of the Government Records Council's (GRC) September 29, 2015 decision in Dello Russo v. East Orange, GRC Complaint No. 2014-430. In that case, the GRC held that East Orange's "policy of banning submission of OPRA requests electronically represents an unreasonable obstacle on access." It held that while the City did not need to accept OPRA requests by both fax and e-mail, it must accept some form of electronic submission.
Would you please amend your OPRA form and instructions so that they conform to the GRC's holding?
Very truly yours,