GRC says No to rule extending the window for reconsideration based on new evidence

Nine months after formally petitioning the Government Records Council (GRC) to expand the window for requesting reconsideration of a GRC decision when new evidence surfaces, NJFOG received word this week that the GRC has declined to change their procedure.

The petition for rulemaking filed in March 2016 sought to extend the period of time for filing a reconsideration request from 10 days to 1 year in the specific circumstance that new evidence exists that could not have been previously discovered.

A motivation for requesting the rule change stems from the outcome of GRC case John Paff v. Harrison Township Fire District, in which Paff’s 11/15/2015 request for reconsideration of the GRC’s 10/27/2015 decision was denied because it was not filed within the existing 10-day post-decision window for such requests. Paff claimed that the new information that formed the basis of his request was first obtained on 11/4/2015 and could not have been learned sooner, even with a diligent search, making the short timeframe for filing the reconsideration request difficult to meet.

In its recent denial of NJFOG’s petition, the GRC claimed that increasing the window for filing new evidence for an adjudicated case would unduly burden the GRC, create further delays in case administration, and negatively impact the discharge of the agency’s duties.

While we understand the GRC’s concerns, we feel that the rule’s limitation that the new evidence could not have been discovered earlier would result in a small, manageable number of reconsideration requests. In the interest of justice, considering that members of the public are at a disadvantage when seeking information from governmental agencies, we feel that an exception should have been made for this circumstance. “…If a custodian intentionally suppresses evidence that is relevant to a GRC case until the eleventh day after the GRC’s decision, then the custodian wins the underlying GRC case and the requestor/complainant has no remedy,” John Paff points out.