Frequently Asked Questions
Regarding Access To Government Records
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- Obtaining Government Records
- What items are considered Government Records?
A government record is a physical record that has a government purpose.
Under OPRA a record may be any paper, written or printed book, document,
drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data-processed or image-processed
document, information stored or maintained electronically or by sound
- Where can I go to inspect or obtain copies of Government Records?
Government records may be seen and copied from a records custodian at a
municipal building, or board of education, and from records custodians at
other levels of government such as your county, state agencies, and local,
county and state authorities.
- Do government records include electronic mail (e-mail)?
Depending on the contents of the e-mail, when created or received by public
employees and agencies in the course of official business - many e-mail
messages would likely be considered a type of government record. E-mail is a
form of communication, similar to paper-based mail; it is the contents of
the e-mail that determine if and what kind of government record it is.
- What procedure should be followed to obtain government records? Is
there a form that must be completed in order to obtain government records?
Yes. Each public agency must have a form available to request access to
records. It must be filled out properly to allow you access to the record.
- Can I request copies of government records on CD-ROM or diskette?
Yes, but the agency may charge a reasonable but special rate for that
service. The fee must relate to the cost of making the copy.
- How soon must the custodian of records grant me access to government
The custodian should grant access as soon as possible, but not more than
seven business days from the request. If the records requested are in
storage or not available in the seven-day period, the custodian may indicate
when the records can be made available. The person asking for the record may
make an arrangement with the custodian for viewing at the later date.
- Must the custodian of records give me all the records that I request?
The custodian is required to give you access to all records that are not
- Does the custodian of records have the right to redact or delete
certain information from government records that I request?
Yes, the custodian is required by OPRA to redact all information that falls
under the rule regarding exceptions, especially personal information,
proprietary information, information about criminal investigations, and the
names of victims of crimes.
- What is the definition of a salary/payroll record?
An individual's name, title, position, salary, payroll record, length of
service, date of separation and the reason, and the amount and type of
pension received, are government records under OPRA. Other personal
information is not disclosable.
- Is there a provision in the law that gives a public entity immunity
for releasing information that should have been redacted?
The custodian is charged with redacting all information that meets one of
the exceptions described in OPRA, but the law does not stipulate any
penalties for mistakes.
- If a requester files an OPRA request for a government for which a set
fee is required, which prevails, the set fee or the copy fee?
The statutory fee must be paid, otherwise OPRA prevails.
- Does a victim have access to his or her records?
Yes. Victims of crimes have access to their own records, but a custodian
will not honor anonymous requests of this nature.
- What happens when no one is in the office during lunchtime?
The office is considered closed until the designated custodian returns from
- Exceptions to Disclosure
- Are there any exceptions under the Open Public Records Act?
There are a number of exceptions under OPRA, many of which deal, but are not
limited to, the public's reasonable expectation of the rights of privacy.
Click here for more information on exceptions.
- Why are exceptions necessary?
There are two primary reasons, the public's reasonable expectation of
privacy of information filed with government agencies, and to ensure that
government agencies can function effectively. In both cases, any reason for
withholding information must be balanced with protecting the public
- What are the "ACD" or "deliberative material" exceptions to the Open
Public Records Act? Why are these exceptions necessary?
A government record does not include inter-agency or intra-agency advisory,
consultative or deliberative material. This type of information includes
communications between government agencies and offices such as
recommendations, draft documents, proposals, suggestions or other subjective
documents reflecting personal opinions of the writer.
- Are government records protected from disclosure by statute,
resolution, Executive Order of the Governor, court ruling or Federal law?
Certain government records are protected by all of the above means.
- Are the telephone numbers of pet owners that are maintained in a
database considered public records?
Generally, home telephone numbers of people on file with the public agency
are not accessible to the public.
- What are the limited exceptions to the release of records by the
OPRA stipulates that autopsy photographs, and medical examiner information
falls under the rule for exceptions.
- Will an anonymous request for criminal investigative records be
Under OPRA, custodians are required not to release such information to
- When will criminal investigative records become available to the
OPRA stipulates that such records may be available to the public within 24
hours unless it appears that such an action will jeopardize the safety of
any person, jeopardize any investigation in progress, or may be otherwise
inappropriate to release.
- What if a requester refuses to sign a certification declaring that
he/she has not been convicted of an indictable offense? Will the
requester then be denied access to personal information?
If the requester refuses to sign a certification, he or she will not be
allowed access to personal information.
- Under the personnel exception to OPRA, if the reason for separation
is related to a grievance filed with the union, should this information be
No. Any information pursuant to a grievance is considered an exception under
- Are the telephone numbers of pet owners, which are maintained in a
database, considered public records?
No. Pet owners' telephones are not considered public records.
- Are records involving juveniles; cases of domestic violence or other
criminal investigative records considered exceptions under OPRA? What about
Medical Examiner information, such as photos of autopsies?
All of the above are considered exceptions.
- Are state and local government agencies exempt under OPRA from
disclosing procurement records concerning computer and building security
OPRA exempts from disclosure administrative or technical information
regarding computer and building security measures if disclosure would
jeopardize sensitive data.
- Is information concerning surveillance equipment and investigatory
services available to the public?
Both state and local government agencies are exempt from disclosing security
measures and surveillance techniques, if disclosure creates a risk to the
safety of people or property.
- Fees for Copying Records
- Is there a fee for copying government records? If so what is that
Yes, there is a fee. Most paper records can be copied at the standard rate
of: $.75 per page for the first 10 pages, for pages 11-20, $.50, and above
that, $.25 per page. If material not easily copied on office equipment is
requested, the cost can be higher, depending on the record and how it is
copied. There is no fee to examine or inspect records.
- If there is an existing law or regulation governing the fee assessed
for duplication of a government record by an agency, do the fees imposed
under OPRA supersede the law or regulation?
No, OPRA does not supersede laws or regulations that set fees for specific
types of records.
- Are the fees uniform throughout the state?
While the base copying fees are generally uniform, some fees may vary based
on the record being copied and the procedure used by public agencies.
- Are there any fees or special service charges that can be imposed for
Special charges may be set for duplication when the copies take special
effort or equipment. This is often when records cannot be copied by
equipment owned by the agency (i.e., copies of engineering drawing that must
be sent out).
- What if a person is indigent and cannot afford the fee?
There are no provisions for "free copies," though anyone is free to inspect
- May the custodian of records impose a special service charge to cover
the cost of labor where complying with the request for documents involves
use of technology?
Yes. In cases where requests for records are in a medium not routinely used
by the agency and requiring a substantial amount of manipulation or
programming of information technology, the agency may charge, in addition to
the cost of duplication, a specials reasonable charge related to its cost of
making the copy.
- Appealing Denial of Access
- What if my request for government records is denied or if information
redacted or deleted is essential to my research? Do I have any recourse to
require that this information be provided?
You have the right under OPRA to appeal the custodian's denial of your
request either to the Government Records Council or the Superior Court.
- Do I have to be told why a request for access is denied and must I be
notified of my right to appeal my denial of government records?
Yes. Any time you are denied access, there must be a reason, and you must be
advised of your rights of appeal by material provided by the custodian. A
notice of how to appeal a denial must also be posted in the record
- Whose responsibility is it to inform me of my right to appeal?
The responsibility to inform you is with the custodian of the records you
- How do I file an appeal with the Government Records Council or in
A complaint can be registered with the Council from its
web site, or by phone (Toll Free:
1-866-850-0511). It must be reduced to writing on a form available from the
Alternatively, the requester may file an appeal in Superior Court where the
denial occurred. Advice of an attorney is advised. There is a $200 fee and court
papers must be filed - or the requester may file a complaint with the Government