OPRA Crisis Update: Escalating
OPRA Requests Costly to Taxpayers
Despite an escalating $300,000 cost to taxpayers, the
inundation of public employee’s time and the draining of resources away from
legitimate public services, OPRA requests continue to be on the rise in
Hamilton, with politically-motivated
individuals leading the way.
Through July 1, 2018, Hamilton received 522 OPRA request in
the first half of that year, on the way to a record 1,756 requests that year,
which generated to over 60,000 pages of public documents being released.
Through July 16, 2019,
a total of 1,263 OPRA requests have already been submitted (356 from one
politically motivated individual alone) – well on the way to reaching
more than 2,500 by year’s end if the current pace continues.
Compared to 2016, just
525 OPRA requests came in that entire year.
And some of the leading culprits of the escalating OPRA
requests have continued to be politically-motivated
Then there are OPRA requests submitted anonymously. In the first half of 2019, Hamilton received
233 requests from aliases hiding the true submitters identity. Interestingly, the wording of many of these
requests were either similarly worded to other OPRA requests or similarly to
the words and emails of some members of the Hamilton Township Council.
“The New Jersey State Legislature has allowed OPRA to become
a boondoggle, while the average New Jersey taxpayer suffers the consequences of
a poorly set-up system that rewards politically-motivated abusers who exploit
the law to harass local officials, along with the lawyers they use to sue
towns,” says Mayor Kelly Yaede. “But
what is an even bigger punch to the gut for every taxpayer is the fact that
‘legislative records’ are one of the few exceptions to New Jersey’s OPRA laws,
shielding State Legislators from any actual consequences of the flawed system
If a judge rules against a town being sued for its handling
of OPRA requests, the litigant’s attorney is automatically awarded ‘legal fees’
which the town must pay – ultimately at a cost to taxpayers. The law thus supports such representation at
no legal expense to the requester. And
yet, if the town is victorious, the litigant does not have to pay the town’s
Similarly, while towns can request extensions, there are no
State regulations that would either automatically extend deadlines, especially
when the same submitter inundates officials with numerous OPRA requests at the
“The abuses we are highlighting have nothing to do with
transparency; rather, they are how politically-motivated individuals subsidizing
their efforts on the backs of taxpayers, while trying to bring legitimate
government services to a grinding halt,” says Yaede.