Do Public Records Have to be Readable to be Subject to Release under OPRA?

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Do Public Records Have to be Readable to be Subject to Release under OPRA?

by Sheri Siegelbaum on August 24, 2012

The New Jersey Open Records Act (OPRA) continues to pose challenges for municipalities. In a recent decision, Superior Court Judge Yolanda Ciccone ruled that data does not need to be readable to qualify as a public record.

The Facts of the Case

The New Jersey OPRA lawsuit was filed by the Gannet newspaper chain after the Somerset County borough of Raritan failed to provide payroll data in response to a public records request. One of Gannet’s newspapers requested that the information be provided in a digital file; however, Raritan’s private payroll vendor only stored the data in Portable Document Format, or PDF. It would have cost $1,100 for the company to convert its PDF into a spreadsheet.

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