Records requestors seeking minutes of non-public (closed or executive) session meetings often encounter roadblocks, from outright denials to delays to complete redactions. And in some cases, minutes are just a few lines long consisting of boiler plate language that offers no real information. Sometimes there is even a question as to whether minutes have been kept at all.
When a Government Records Council (GRC) complaint is filed by a records requestor, an OPRA custodian must file with the GRC a Statement of Information (SOI) providing facts related to the complaint. The SOI often provides better insight into why records were not provided than what was previously told to the requestor.
One example concerns an SOI submitted by the Town of Kearny Clerk, who admits in the SOI that executive session minutes from meetings as far back as five years ago have not yet been transcribed. The GRC complaint stemmed from an OPRA request for executive session minutes that was acknowledged but went unfilled.
Kearny’s mayor pointed out, per coverage of the story on NJ.com, that handwritten minutes meet the requirements of the law. While that may be true, public agencies often won’t release unapproved or draft documents to records requestors.
Kearny admits to at least five year delay in transcribing its Town Council closed session minutes. Blames lack of staffing and municipal budget woes.
Random notes on NJ government
by John Paff
October 21, 2016