Amendments to the Open Public Information Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(i) by P.L. 2020, c.10

The seven (7) enterprise days interval for a public entity to answer OPRA requests is relaxed when New Jersey is formally underneath a state of emergency, public well being emergency, or state or native catastrophe emergency.  If a custodian of a authorities report wants extra time to provide these data, the custodian should nonetheless make a “affordable effort” to answer these requests as quickly as potential thereafter.

OPRA’s statutory deadlines shall not apply throughout the next circumstances:

  • Governor-declared state of emergency pursuant to the Catastrophe Management Act (N.J.S.A. App.A.9-33 et seq.);
  • Public well being emergency underneath the Emergency Well being Powers Act (N.J.S.A. 26:13-1 et seq.);
  • State or native catastrophe emergency is asserted by a county or by a municipality

Nevertheless, pursuant to P.L. 2020, c.10, custodians of public data should make a “affordable effort” to answer an OPRA request inside seven (7) enterprise days or as quickly as potential thereafter through the declared State of Emergency. Moreover, such custodians ought to nonetheless comply with the unamended deadlines if possible.

As a reminder, if a “public company” shouldn’t be open for “common enterprise hours” resulting from common or emergency closure, the Authorities Information Council has suggested that it’s affordable to conclude that such intervals of closure shall not rely in opposition to the statutory response time-frame.

Any disputes over extensions shall be reviewed by the Authorities Information Council on a case-by-case foundation.  The Authorities Information Council shall take into account “extenuating circumstances” when deciding the reasonableness of extensions. These circumstances would come with, however not be restricted to the next:

  • the power to retrieve data which are being saved domestically or remotely;
  • changing data to a different medium to accommodate the requestor;
  • when there’s an emergency closure of the general public company;
  • when a public company must reallocate assets to a better precedence resulting from power majeure.

Furthermore, the Authorities Information Council has suggested that if a File Custodian’s public company is working underneath regular enterprise hours, even when closed to the general public or working off-site, the Information Custodian nonetheless has an obligation to answer OPRA requests upon receipt sooner or later to the extent potential.

Lastly, Information Custodians shall notify the general public by way of web site and/or different strategies if circumstances exist which alter the everyday OPRA request technique of transmission as a result of declared state of emergency.

Within the occasion you may have particular questions or issues about your obligations underneath the legislation, please contact our workplace for extra steering.

 

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