I recently spoke with Jersey Shore Online about my participation in a multi-plaintiff Open Public Records Act lawsuit against the Monmouth County, NJ government over their refusal to answer requests through my site OPRAmachine.
The lawsuit stems from the county’s refusal to answer legally valid public records requests submitted through the site, which automatically publishes public records requests & responses in all 21 counties of New Jersey.
In its first year of existence, the civic technology and open government website - the first of its kind targeting New Jersey state & local government - has streamlined and modernized the public records request process in a paperless and easy to use process.
Monmouth County answered requests through the site without issue throughout 2017 and most of 2018 until one of their employees failed to redact confidential information.. When the county employees made a mistake, I took swift corrective action to remove the confidential material within 1 day of being contacted about the issue.
Unfortunately, the county chose to punish users of my site and refuse to answer any requests through the site after the incident.
This is unaccaptable and an obstruction of the county’s transparency obligations under OPRA, the state’s freedom of information law. I joined in the case to stand up for our users, who have faced stalls and delays on their records requests. OPRAmachine users includ
Here’s the portion of the story where I was quoted:
Since announcing the lawsuit at the end of September, Rozzi has been working on changes to OPRAmachine. In an Oct. 9 email to Jersey Shore Online, he explained he’s been working to address privacy concerns raised by Monmouth County.
“By the end of the month, we anticipate that our changes will allow OPRAmachine to detect and automatically redact social security numbers to protect privacy interests, something that no other proprietary public records solution (that we are aware of in NJ) does,” Rozzi wrote.
In a separate email the same day, Rozzi explained exactly why he filed suit.
“We want the court to order Monmouth County to do as they have previously done and honor the legally valid public records requests submitted to them by our users. We hope that the lawsuit will stop the county from treating public records requests differently because they originate from the OPRAmachine service. To remedy the county’s obstruction of the public records request process, we are urging the court to strike down the county’s unprecedented and overreaching policy that limits access to public information and find them in violation of the law.”