The New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA) gives New Jersey citizens (See Harry Scheeler, Jr. v. Burlington Twp; GRC Complaint No 2015-93 Ruling) greater access to public inspection and duplication of disclosable government records through the filing of an OPRA Request. It is important to know that OPRA does NOT cover the judicial branch or municipal court, as they are regulated by other statutes. New Jersey citizens have access to government records except for those documents that fall under defined exclusions. Under OPRA, the Hamilton Township Clerk has been designated as the official Custodian of Records. A summary of the procedures, forms and timetables for access are explained in more detail below.
What is a government record?
A government record is a record that has a government purpose and that is held by a public agency. Under OPRA, the "physical record" includes any paper, written or printed book, document, drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data-processed or image-processed document, and information stored or maintained electronically or by sound recording.
What government records are accessible?
For the most part, all government records are accessible to the public except those that fall under the exemptions to public access as set forth in OPRA. Examples of public records that are available to the public include minutes of public meetings, budgets, bills, vouchers, and contracts.
Why are some records exempt from disclosure?
Under OPRA, certain records are exempt from access to the public because citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding records in possession of a public agency and public safety concerns.
How do I obtain a government record from Hamilton Township?
The procedure for obtaining a government record from Hamilton Township is straightforward. It is important to note, however, that you need to know what record(s) you want. For example, the Municipal Clerk will be unable to fulfill a request for "all meeting minutes where the budget was discussed." In order for your request to be processed, you will be required to provide an accurate description of each record sought.
If you wish to obtain a government record, you must file a RECORDS REQUEST which is available on-line. This form is keyboard fillable which can then be printed, signed in original ink signature and dropped-off or mailed to this office for processing. Please note that this office DOES NOT accept facsimile requests.
When can I except to receive the document(s)?
Any record that is readily available to the Municipal Clerk will be processed at the time of the request. We will make every effort to provide access as soon as it is requested. For records that are not immediately available, the Municipal Clerk has seven business days from the time it is received in the office which houses the document to provide the information requested, deny access, or inform the requestor of the additional time it will take to fulfill the request. If the request involves a large amount of information or the information is archived, both the requestor and Municipal Clerk will agree to an extension of time.
What happens if my request is denied?
If the Municipal Clerk denies the request, you may file a complaint with the Government Records Council (GRC) for relief. Please see "A Citizen's Guide to the Open Public Records Act" at the state's website for more information.
The copy fee is .05¢ per page. At the discretion of the Municipal Clerk, a deposit may be required for large requests. Tapes, maps, hearing transcripts, exhibits, drawings, etc. will be charged based upon the actual cost to the municipality for reproduction. In addition, a special service charge may be assessed whenever an extraordinary expenditure of time and effort is required to fulfill a request because of the nature, format, manner of collation or volume of government records requested. The Municipal Clerk will inform the requestor of these special charges and shall require approval in writing prior to reproduction.
Please contact our office at (609) 890-3622 or view the state website for answers to your questions http://www.nj.gov/grc/index.shtml