[HISTORY: Adopted by the Township Committee of the Township of Freehold by Ord. No. O-02-31 (§ 2-24 of the Revised General Ordinances); amended in its entirety at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. III). Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
It is hereby declared to be the public policy of this Township to recognize the public's general right to know pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq.). All records kept in the course of official duties by any Township officer or employee shall be deemed to be "government records," as that term is defined by N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1, and such records shall be subject to inspection by the public unless exempt under the statute or other regulation, common law practice, executive order of the Governor, Rules of Court, federal law or judicial decision.
In accordance with N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1, the Municipal Clerk is designated as the custodian of records. The Clerk shall adopt a form for the use of any person who requests access to a record, and such form shall contain all of the information required by N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(f).
Any person seeking to inspect, examine or copy a public record of this municipality shall make application in writing to the Municipal Clerk, during regular business hours, on the form provided. All requests for public records shall be as specific as possible, including the type of record and date created, if known.
The Municipal Clerk shall promptly comply with a request to inspect, examine, copy or provide a copy of a government record. If the Clerk is unable to comply with a request for access, he or she shall indicate on the request form the specific basis for such inability to comply and shall promptly return it to the requestor. The Clerk shall sign and date the form and provide the requestor with a copy thereof.
In those instances where the nature of the request or the record itself leads the Municipal Clerk to doubt whether or not the record is a "government record" as defined by law or is a record exempt from disclosure, the Clerk shall request an opinion from the Municipal Attorney. A copy of the request form shall be forwarded to the Attorney, who, after review and investigation, shall issue an opinion and note such opinion on the request form and promptly return it to the Municipal Clerk.
If any part of a particular record is exempt from public access pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq., the Clerk shall delete, redact or excise from a copy of the record that portion which is exempt from access and shall promptly permit access to the remainder of the record.
If the record requested is temporarily unavailable because it is in use or in storage, the Clerk shall so advise the requestor and shall make arrangements to make a copy of the record available.
If a request for access to a government record would substantially disrupt municipal operations, the Clerk may deny access to the record after attempting to reach a reasonable solution with the requestor that accommodates the interests of the requestor and the municipality.
As required by N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5e, immediate access shall be granted for access to budgets, bills, vouchers, contracts (including collective negotiations agreements and individual employment contracts), and public salary and overtime information.
Unless a shorter time period is otherwise provided by statute, regulation or executive order, the Clerk shall grant access to a government record or deny a request for access to a record as soon as possible, but not later than seven business days after receiving the request, provided that the record is currently available and not in storage or archived. In the event that the Clerk fails to respond within seven business days after receiving a request, the failure to respond shall be deemed a denial of the request, unless the requestor has elected not to provide a name, address or telephone number, or other means of contacting the requestor. If the requestor has elected not to provide a name, address, or telephone number, or other means of contacting the requestor, the Clerk shall not be required to respond until the requestor reappears before the custodian seeking a response to the original request. If the government record is in storage or archived, the requestor shall be so advised within seven business days after the Clerk receives the request. The requestor shall be advised by the Clerk when the record can be made available. If the record is not made available by that time, access shall be deemed denied.
The Clerk shall post prominently in public view, in or adjacent to the Clerk's office, a statement that sets forth in clear, concise and specific terms the right to appeal a denial of or failure to provide access to a government record and the procedure by which an appeal may be filed.
Upon the approval of a request to view, inspect, examine or copy a record, the record and the requestor shall remain in the presence of the Municipal Clerk or his or her authorized representative at all times. Under no circumstances shall any government record be removed from the office where it is normally kept unless accompanied by the custodian or his or her authorized representative.
In the event that the nature of a request to view records requires that the Clerk or other municipal employee observe or monitor such viewing for a period of time exceeding 0.5 hour, the requestor shall be responsible for reimbursing the municipality for time spent by the Clerk or other employee.
Copies of records may be purchased for the fee prescribed by law or regulation. If a fee is not prescribed by law or regulation, the fee shall be the actual cost of duplicating the record; provided, however, that where the actual cost for duplication of a record exceeds the rates in Chapter 150, Fees, the actual cost shall be imposed.