Sunday, May 1, 2016

OPRA Request for Minutes, Forms, and Training

Dear Westfield Memorial Library Board of Directors (via Director Philip Israel):

OPRA Request:

This is a request for public records made under common law and the Open Public Records Act [OPRA] seeking the following information:

1)  Minutes of the 28 April 2016 Board of Trustees Meeting.

In short, please provide the minutes from the immediate past board meeting.

2)  Records of planning to file and filing forms entitled, “Request and Authorization for Records Disposal.”  Include related correspondence, notes, telephonic recordings, etc.  Here is an example blank form: Include responses from the State of New Jersey.

In short, please provide the documents evidencing permission from the State of New Jersey to dispose of various public records, for example, permission to destroy an audio recording of the 28 May 2015 executive session.

3)  Records of planning to file and online filing of forms filed with Artemis (Records Retention and Disposition Management System):  Include related correspondence, notes, telephonic recordings, etc.  Include responses from the State of New Jersey.

In short, please provide the online evidence showing permission from the State of New Jersey to dispose of various public records, for example, permission to destroy an audio recording of the 28 May 2015 executive session.

4)  Records of all conferences and all training provided over the past two years for librarians, library employees, library board trustees, and the library director where that conference/training was provided directly or indirectly by the American Library Association, the New Jersey Library Association, the New Jersey State Library, or other library conference/training providers, including correspondence/email, notes taken in handwriting or electronically by individuals, telephonic recordings, handouts, conference/training manuals, online training sources, permission slips, travel accommodations paid, fees and costs paid, airfare, car reimbursements, hotel stays, conference/training admission, meals, and other expenses involved in attending the conferences, etc.  Include presentations or reports written by librarians, library employees, library board trustees, and the library director after returning from the conferences/trainings where they recorded or shared their learnings at the conferences/trainings.  Exclude any conferences/training devoted solely to the workings of various machinery or software within the library, unless that conference/training includes legal aspects of software usage.  For example, training on how to use Internet filters may be excluded unless that training includes legal aspects pertaining to the use of Internet filters.

In short, please provide the who, what, when, where, subject matter, and complete training provided and notes taken of all training provided to librarians, library employees, library board trustees, and the library director by several leading library conference/training sources.  Include reports written by attendees to present to others that summarize what was learned.

Detailed Reasoning for OPRA Request:

Now I will go into detailed reasoning for this request.  

As you know an audio recording was made of the 28 May 2015 executive session meeting by the library board.  It was converted to minutes that were provided to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office [UCPO].  The next day I was informed by UCPO that, based on the minutes, no Open Public Meetings Act violation occurred.  Having previously told UCPO that a recording was made, I asked it to reconsider and to listen to the recording instead of just considering the minutes.  UCPO refused, responding only that it could not do that as the library board had destroyed the tape.

At the 28 April 2016 library board meeting I confirmed with the library that the UCPO claim that the recording was destroyed was accurate.

New Jersey law regarding the destruction of public records comprises audio recordings of executive sessions made by municipal bodies.  The law requires that audio recordings may not be destroyed until “80 days or until either summary or verbatim transcript have been approved as minutes, whichever is longer.”  Further, “to legally dispose of records, agencies must fill out and submit a Request and Authorization for Records Disposal form. County and local officials may submit requests on-line.”  Hyperlinks omitted.

Therefore, I am seeking evidence that such written or online forms were completed in compliance with the law.  I am seeking evidence that the State of New Jersey replied to such completed forms.

I am also seeking evidence of any training provided to librarians, library employees, library board trustees, and the library director by major library training providers at conferences or at dedicated trainings.  Said training would reveal if anyone received training on New Jersey’s records retention policies or such policies in general.  I am seeking all training information, not just training information pertaining only to the records retention policies, but I’m not interested in training solely about machinery or software usage, unless such training contains information about the legal usage of Internet filters.

Further, there is a book that makes clear library record retention is a serious matter not to be taken lightly by library boards and library directors and warning that violations are serious violations of state laws.  Since it is evident the library community has been aware of the seriousness of library record retention policies for decades since the book was published, there can be no legitimate excuse for not following state record retention laws.

I provide this detailed reasoning for the requested public records to make it clear the records I seek are public records, are legally required, are available to the public upon request, this request is not made frivolously or with any self-interest, and there is the potential for uncovering serious illegality if records were destroyed in violation of the law, particularly if that illegality was performed in furtherance of a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act and an effort to cover up such a violation.

Legal Guideposts If Needed:

There should be no need to seek legal counsel for compliance with this OPRA request.  I am hoping to get the requested public records without significant cost to the municipality and without your having to sink time and taxpayer money into seeking permission from an attorney, a costly intermediary that is not needed for this OPRA request.  Yes, redact out home phone numbers, home addresses, account numbers, personal email addresses if not used for library business, etc.  I am only seeking public information,  It is easy to redact or block any personal portions of such records.  It is a simple matter to look in various files and produce the simple information I request under the law.  It is public information.  If an insistence is made on draining taxpayer resources by engaging the services of an attorney to provide the public with public documents under the law that the library can provide without legal intervention, a step that is superfluous to obtaining the requested public records, then the following legal guideposts might help minimize the damage by providing a head start:

Information About the OPRA Requester and the OPRA Request:

I am a member of the news media and I will be reporting on the materials produced in response to this records request as part of my investigative reporting on public libraries locally and nationwide.  I have already published my first report on the Westfield Memorial Library: “Library Approves Unfiltered Computers in Children's Section” ( ).  For about fifteen years I regularly publish about library crimes including violations of open government laws.  I may make public any OPRA response as it may be in the public interest, both locally and nationally.  Therefore, please waive any fees that might otherwise pertain to OPRA requests.

I request the OPRA response be in electronic format and emailed directly or via attachment to me ( ). 

To make things really easy, here is the OPRA statute:

OPRA requires a response time of seven business days.  If access to the records I am requesting will take longer, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies.

If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption alleged to justify the refusal to release the public records and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law.  Also, please provide all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material.


I am a member of the American Library Association.  I recently became a member of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government ( ).  NJFOG provides training that has significantly enhanced my knowledge of open government rights.  Further, I am now a part of community of open government advocates who are now watching what I’m doing to expose open government violations and defend open government rights.  I highly suggest people at Westfield Memorial Library join NJFOG as it will help them learn about open government rights and regulations.  

Lastly, I have ordered a copy of the Shirley A. Wiegand book on library records.  I am hereby offering to lend it to anyone at the library, including library counsel.  It may guide the library board to stop the deleting of public records such as Internet browser histories that may help police solve crimes, including child p0rn0graphy viewing, until coming into compliance with New Jersey law.

Thank you for your consideration.

Dan Kleinman, Library Watchdog

1 May 2016

CC:  Professor Shirley A. Wiegand
        NJ Foundation for Open Government

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On Twitter:  @ALALibrary @NewJerseyFOG @WMLNJ

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