OPRA update should benefit town clerks too

The New Jersey Foundation for Open Government wishes to respond to the Nov. 8 letter, “OPRA update mustn’t overly burden municipal clerks,” by Kevin Galland, first vice president of the Municipal Clerks Association of New Jersey.

The clerks association’s opposition to the legislative reform sponsored by Sen. Loretta Weinberg seems misguided because the legislation doesn’t significantly alter the duties of clerks but does make their job easier in several important ways.

S1045 and S1046 modernize the Open Public Meetings and Records Acts, respectively. A new requirement that many public documents be posted online may dramatically reduce the number of OPRA requests. In fact, an article touting Bloomfield Township’s online records portal states that it “has already reduced the number of OPRA requests submitted for resolutions and ordinances by 15 percent.”

Today, over 99 percent of the state’s municipalities have a website.

The legislation also clarifies what information is public, which should greatly benefit clerks by reducing the number of disputes. We agree with Galland that better training of municipal clerks — also public officials and agency attorneys — is needed to ensure proper handling of requests.

Galland expresses concern about a clerk’s personal liability if an error is made. However, fines are rarely assessed because they are meant to discourage intentional denials of access, not to penalize clerks when a challenge arises from a good faith effort to fill a request.

Linda Baum

Middletown Township, Monmouth County, Vice President, NJFOG

Legislature should pass abuse awareness bill

In the uproar over numerous sexual assault and harassment accusations in Hollywood, I am appalled that S2145 has been pending in the New Jersey Senate since May 2016. Sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, Somerset, the bill would require each school district to incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education in grades preschool through 12 — similar to Erin’s Laws adopted by other states. Sadly, it has been turned down twice.

Children are little people with rights. I and others throughout New Jersey are on the list to testify in support of S2145. Federal funding would be available for every county to make its requirements part of New Jersey’s Core Curriculum.

Valeria Marcus

Atlantic City