2010 Alphabetical OPRA Requests Submitted to the Gloucester City Clerk
January 2011 OPRA Requests submitted to the Gloucester City Clerk

Gloucester City Municipal Clerk Processed 127 OPRA Requests in 2010...41 So Far in January

“When a large percentage of OPRA requests are coming from the same person or same group of people working together, I have to agree with your statement that “they have taken this law and made a mockery out of it for personal reasons.”

~ Gloucester City Municipal Clerk Kathy Jentsch

 

 By Bill Cleary

Earlier this month Kathy Jentsch, municipal clerk for the City of Gloucester City 6a00d8341bf7d953ef01287771d0a3970c-640wi
issued a notice that her office would only accept two Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request per business day from the public. 

 

Jentsch stated “more OPRA request than that will be considered a  "substantial disruption" of the Clerk's functions. Such requests will not be considered "received" until all previous requests at two-per day-have been satisfied.” 

photo Gloucester City Municipal Building

Shortly thereafter Catherine Starghill Executive Director of the Government Records Council for the state of New Jersey informed Jentsch that the City’s recent OPRA policy  was in violation of rules. 

 

To find out why the city clerk was trying to limit the numbers Jentsch was contacted and asked to provide a list of the OPRA’s received in 2010.

 

Those documents revealed that the City received 127 OPRA requests in 2010. Many of those requests last year came from just two people, Gary Pierce and Michael Walters. Pierce, a fireman, submitted 26 and Walters, 38. Walters, who is a disabled city fireman, ran unsuccessfully for city council last year.

 

In the first 21 days of January, 41 OPRA’s have been submitted. Twenty-one were received from former municipal clerk/city administrator Paul Kain, and 9 came from Walters. 

 Jentsch was asked whether she felt some of these individuals are making a mockery out of the OPRA law for personal reasons because of all the requests they have filed?

 

She writes, 

 

“When a large percentage of OPRA requests are coming from the same person or same group of people working together, I have to agree with your statement that “they have taken this law and made a mockery out of it for personal reasons.”

 

“In 2010 31% of the requests received were from Michael Walters and 21% from Firefighter Gary Pierce.  Mr. Walters averaged up to 3-5 per day and range from simple to complex. 

 

“In 2011 85% of the requests received were from three  individuals that I believe are working together.  It’s unfair that taxpayers are paying for manpower hours to accommodate these three individuals for their own self interest. 

 

“Although I fully support the intention of OPRA, the sheer volume of requests in  one year  is disruptive.  I have done my best to continue to perform all duties of the office of Municipal Clerk  but unfortunately my definition of disruptive differs from the Government Records Council.

 

“ I am not sure that the average person is aware of what it takes to assemble 10 different person’s emails to and from a certain individual within a certain time period.    If the requestor would simply ask for exactly what they are seeking instead of conducting a fishing expedition to try to uncover some illegal activity that does not exist.

 

“The public also needs to be made aware that if a requestor asks for the information to be sent electronically there is no cost, not even a per page copy cost.

 

“As far as your question as to whether any employees are staying late to assist with the abundance of OPRA requests – Because I am the custodian of records it is up to me to make sure all information is provided to the requestor within the statutorily mandated 7 business days.   Therefore, the only employee that is working off hours is me.  The Clerk’s office is responsible for duties other than OPRA requests and most all are time sensitive thereby the necessity for off hour work.

 

“As far as your question on cost to taxpayers – I cannot give you a number but can assure you that the additional time being spent off hours by me is not costing the City a cent.

 

“The City website is being upgraded and updated to include 3 years of minutes, agendas, resolutions, ordinances,  contracts, etc.   My hope is that this will reduce the amount of requests received.

 

“The Governing Body, as well as the City Solicitor, have been assigned City email addresses and those email addresses will be released to the public once final set up has occurred.”

 

 See list of 2010 OPRA requests 

 

See list of January 2011 requests

 

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