Home Community pharmacy budget Study says NJ takes too long to resolve public records complaints

Study says NJ takes too long to resolve public records complaints

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Over a nine-year period studied by the Office of the State Comptroller, the New Jersey Board of Government Records took three times longer, on average, to adjudicate Open Public Records Act requests than the system. State judiciary sets to resolve such cases.

Simply put, an OPRA complaint filed today would not be satisfied until April 2024, if the typical fiscal year 2012 to 2020 deadline continues to be met.

This average of 21 months per litigation is excessive and does not create transparency in the New Jersey government, according to Acting Comptroller Kevin Walsh.

Walsh said when the state created the RCMP under the Department of Community Affairs two decades ago, it did so in hopes of getting residents’ requests answered “as quickly as possible. “.

These could range from records sought from state offices, to school districts, to utilities within individual municipalities.

As such, Walsh said, the OPRA exists as a kind of promise to the people of New Jersey.

“If I want to know why my mayor made a particular decision, what information was there, I can call and file an Open Public Records Act request and try to get that information,” he said.

But one of the recommendations Walsh’s office is now making in a new report is that the RCMP define exactly how quickly it intends to act.

“Is it six months? Is it 12 months? If the courts can do it in seven months, can the state agency to do it without a lawyer maybe respect this standard,” Walsh said.

In this regard, the comptroller’s report also suggests that the agency disclose, via its website, whether it is performing to the standard it has set for itself.

“It’s good for an agency tasked with helping transparency to be transparent about whether it’s achieving its own goals,” Walsh said.

One concession made by the report is that due to budget cuts, the RCMP now has only three staff members, down from 10, to handle a backlog of hundreds of cases each year.

The DCA has permission to hire two additional staff but has not done so, which Walsh also recommends doing.

The report doesn’t set a timeline for when the Board of Government Archives should implement the proposed changes, but Walsh said the sooner the better.

“We have made recommendations and we have an obligation to check whether these recommendations are followed,” he said.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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