A resident who had a variance application denied has asked me for all “similar variance denials” by the municipality. How would I handle this?

According to rulings of the Government Records Council and the Appellate Division, this request is not an appropriate Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request. OPRA requests must be for specific, identifiable records, rather than information. The requester cannot require that the records custodian do research to find all records on a broad topic like the one you describe. In Reda v. Twp. of West Milford, GRC Complaint No. 2002-58 (January 17, 2003), an individual asked for information regarding a municipality's liability settlements, but did not request specific records. The GRC rejected the request, noting that the custodian is only required to retrieve records, and the requester must do any research and analysis required.

The Appellate Division reversed the Law Division order requiring defendant to comply with an improper OPRA request in MAG Entertainment. LLC v. Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 375 NJ Super 534 (App. Div. 2005). The requester asked for all records concerning ABC suspensions of liquor licenses for serving liquor to an intoxicated person in connection with a fatal auto accident or concerning such suspensions for more than 45 days for "lewd or immoral activity." In denying the request, the Court said "...OPRA does not countenance open-ended searches of an agency's files...(T)he request failed to identify with any specificity or particularity the governmental records sought..."

Similarly, the request that was made to you is not an appropriate OPRA request. You should explain to the requester in your denial why you cannot comply with the request as given. If he can identify the records sufficiently so that you can retrieve them without extensive research and analysis, then you should, of course, do so.

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1. I have heard that the Attorney General has specifically exempted attorneys from the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Is this true, and if so, why are they given special treatment?
2. Is email sent by a municipal employee subject to the Open Public Records Act? If so, what about email sent from his or her home computer?
3. Our municipality is being sued in state court over denial of a variance and using OPRA. Doesn’t he need to use the discovery rules to obtain material concerning litigation as parties have always done?
4. With Open Public Records Act (OPRA), what do I do with attorney-client privilege information, such as with detailed bills, when a request is sent?
5. Is the financial disclosure form that I file under the Local Public Ethics law as a municipal official subject to release under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA)?
6. I am a municipal clerk and a reporter for a regional newspaper recently called and asked for the salaries of all municipal employees. Do I have to release this information?
7. I requested a transcript of a municipality meeting and was told it takes weeks, don't they have to provide this to me within seven business days of my request under the law?
8. A resident who had a variance application denied has asked me for all “similar variance denials” by the municipality. How would I handle this?
9. Do requestors have to use the official Open Public Records Act (OPRA) form?
10. The court awarded substantial attorneys fees to the plaintiff in a settlement with our municipality. Can such fees be ordered in the context of a settlement?