Bergen Prosecutor’s OPRA request procedure leads to complaint, then improvement

In line with our mission to improve accessibility to public records, NJFOG, working through one of its officers, has made it easier for members of the public to request records from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.   – NJFOG

Many public agencies have their own Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request form that they prefer you use when submitting a request for records.  However, you don’t have to use their form and, in most cases, can just send an email.  That’s the law.  The law also governs what records must be disclosed.

NJFOG trustee John Paff discussed with NJFOG his concern about the records request procedure followed by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office (BCPO) and subsequently filed a pro se Government Records Council (GRC) complaint against the agency.  The reasons for filing are explained fully in the complaint, but in short John said, “I didn’t like how the Prosecutor’s Office was telling people that they had to submit their OPRA requests on the BCPO’s particular form and then providing the public with an OPRA form that stated OPRA’s exceptions too broadly.”  NFJOG and John agree that governmental agencies should strive to make it easy for members of the public to submit records requests.

On March 9, John’s GRC complaint was settled in the GRC mediation process, and the BCPO, in anticipation of the mediation conference, amended its web site (click here for the new site) to make it much easier for the public to submit OPRA requests for documents. The BCPO’s previous site and OPRA form are attached as exhibits to the complaint for anyone who would like to compare.

NJFOG is proud to be working with John and its many dedicated members to effect this kind of positive change for the citizenry.