Did you know that anyone can anonymously request a majority of Brigantine government records? It’s true. By NJ law, you can request most info (with some restrictions) via email using the official Brigantine form, or you may write / type a personally written request, as long as you reference ‘OPRA‘.
OPRA came in really handy a few years back for the concerned citizens of Brigantine.
A sexual harassment investigation report of a retiring Brigantine police chief was being held back from the public. Brigantine refused to release the report by claiming it was a government record exempted by state laws. Public records advocate; John Paff, called them out on that. Paff contacted Brigantine’s Mayor Phil Guenther and City Council about this issue. See letter here.
In a Feb. 25, 2010 ruling, Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson said the report, described as being conducted by an “independent fact finder,” is in fact “a common law public record,” not a government record.
Click Here to Read Report: Brigantine Investigation: Barber & Frugoli
OPRA; Open Public Records Act
OPRA is a New Jersey statute governing access to government records maintained by public agencies like the City of Brigantine. It provides requestors with statutory right to access Brigantine records. All limitations on access shall be construed in favor of the public. Again, it is the requestor’s right to access records.
Listen Below > JOHN PAFF interviewed by MEL TAYLOR on WPG Talk Radio 1450 on DEC. 4, 2015
New Jersey’s busiest open-government activist. John Paff; the man keeping local government on its toes. The famous and infamous…but much needed citizen watchdog.
What is a Government Record?
OPRA defines a government record as: any record that has been made, maintained, or kept on file in the course of official business, or that has been received in the course of official business. Under OPRA, a “government record” includes printed records, tape recordings, microfilm, electronically stored records (including e-mails and data sets stored in a database), books, maps, photographs, etc.
Access Brigantine Government records using an OPRA REQUEST
Who may file an NJ OPRA request? Anyone! Although OPRA specifically references “citizens of this State,” (N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1) the Attorney General’s Office advises that OPRA does not prohibit access to residents of other states.
You may file OPRA requests anonymously without providing any personal contact information, even though space for that information appears on the form; thus anonymous requests are permitted.
How is a OPRA request made? A request for access to a Brigantine government record must be in writing and hand-delivered, mailed, transmitted electronically (email), or otherwise conveyed to the appropriate custodian. N.J.S.A. 47:1A- 5.g.
OPRA requests can be made using Brigantine’s official OPRA request form. However, you may send a written / typed request (not the official form), but it must mention OPRA. See here
Public agencies like the City of Brigantine may accept requests for access to government records over the Internet or by e-mail. The City of Brigantine does have the capability (email) to accept electronically transmitted requests and establish appropriate policies and practices. The law does not require public agencies to provide new services beyond what they currently provide in order to accept records requests electronically.
Lynn Sweeney is the Brigantine City Clerk. She welcomes your OPRA request.
Phone: (609) 266-7600 ext. 220
As City Clerk, Lynn Sweeney assists with administering the affairs of the City, including attending Council meetings and providing for the taking and preparation of minutes therefore; compilation, preservation, indexing and publication of all ordinances and resolutions, and numerous other duties as specified in the City Code.
Among the many tasks related to the Office of the Municipal Clerk, one of the core duties is to maintain custody of all minutes, books, deeds, bonds, contracts, ordinances, resolutions and archive records of the municipal corporation and provide information in a timely and efficient manner and provide technical assistance to individuals and public officials. The City Clerk’s Office prepares and distributes Council meeting agendas and is also responsible for keeping the Council knowledgeable of State directives and objectives. The Clerk’s Office records Oaths of Office as well as issues licenses/permits as authorized by the Governing Body and New Jersey Statutes.
Within the Office of the Municipal Clerk is the Registrar of Vital Statistics. The Registrar records marriages, domestic partnerships, civil unions, births and deaths. The Township Clerks Office is also responsible for assisting the County with elections and voter registration
The Municipal Clerk’s responsibilities as defined by New Jersey Statutes include: Secretary to the Governing Body, Secretary to the Municipal Corporation, Administrative and Licensing Officer, Election Administrator, and Records Coordinator and Manager.
The City Clerk’s Office is the place to go for:
- Voter Registration Information
- Elections, School Board/Primary/General/Municipal
- Copies of Resolutions and Local Ordinances
How can requested records be delivered to the requestor? A custodian (ex: Brigantine City Clerk) must grant access to a government record by the method of delivery requested by the requestor (regular mail, fax, or e-mail). O’Shea v. Township of Fredon (Sussex), GRC Complaint No. 2007-251 . Charges for such delivery must reflect actual cost.
OPRA provides that a custodian (City Clerk) must permit access to a government record and provide a copy of the record(s) in the medium requested, if the public agency maintains the record in that medium. If the custodian does not maintain the record in the medium requested, he/she must: Convert the record to the medium requested; or Provide the record in some other meaningful medium (meaningful to the requestor). N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5.d.
Do some records require immediate access? OPRA requires that custodians (Brigantine City Clerk) must ordinarily grant immediate access to budgets, bills, vouchers, contracts (including collective negotiations agreements and individual employment contracts), and public employee salary and overtime information. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5.e.
Immediate access means at once, without delay. Exceptions may include instances in which the requested records are in use, in storage, or require medium conversion. In such instances, the custodian must provide access as immediately as possible. City of Brigantine should act reasonably, however, using their best efforts to comply with this requirement. If a custodian (Brigantine City Clerk) cannot provide immediate access to records for a legitimate reason, the custodian must reduce such reason to writing and request an extension of time to comply with the immediate statutory requirement.