Public records fees face opposition

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:12

    WEST MILFORD - The old Town Council giveth; the new one taketh away, and some folks are not happy with that philosophy. At the council meeting of April 29, the township attorney, William De Marco, spoke about a letter written to officials by a local resident, Martin O'Shea, opposing an ordinance that charges a fee to anyone seeking public information documents under the state's Open Public Records Act (OPRA). In his letter, O'Shea says the proposed ordinance, set for a public hearing on May 5, does not conform to OPRA for two reasons. The new ordinance would require anyone who requests public records to give their name and address and, he says, OPRA allows for anonymous requests. O'Shea also objects to the section allowing for a charge for the township officer's time. To which he says OPRA imposes a special service fee only when inspection of government records takes an exceptional amount of time and effort. "I do not think that the courts will find 16 minutes locating and copying records an ‘extraordinary' amount of time," he states. Proposed fees that were to be passed at this week's meeting reportedly conform to those suggested in the Open Public Meeting Act and consist of 75 cents for each of the first 10 pages copied, then 50 cents for the next 10 pages, then 25 cents for each additional page. The schedule continues for other sizes, special documents and photos, and maps. O'Shea also says that he believes the subsections in the ordinance "can be viewed as a barrier to a citizen receiving public records." De Marco said he would review the law and would amend the ordinance if need be. Last year, the outgoing council removed the fees for most requests for public records.