At the May 14th Town Council meeting, a resolution quietly passed with a curious exception. This resolution urged the adoption of S-2930/A-4045, a bill aimed at “modernizing” the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). While the resolution was approved by all council members except Councilman Costantino who abstained, the bill itself has sparked heated debate across New Jersey.

Proponents, including those on the Secaucus Town Council, argue that the current OPRA system places a significant burden on local governments, diverting resources and manpower to handle a flood of requests, some of which are used for commercial gain. They point to instances of exorbitant attorney fees levied against municipalities when challenging denied requests, ultimately impacting taxpayers.

However, transparency advocates and journalistic organizations counter that these proposed reforms would significantly hinder public access to crucial government information. They argue that S-2930/A-4045 would make it easier for government agencies to deny requests, particularly those filed by journalists, and shield potentially unethical or illegal activities from public scrutiny.

The resolution itself cites the need to protect residents from having their personal information “tracked and monetized for commercial purposes.”

The Secaucus Scoop reached out to the Town Clerk’s office to inquire about the number of OPRA requests received in 2023, seeking to understand more context for this decision. As of press time, we have not received a response.

The debate surrounding OPRA reform highlights a critical tension between protecting individual privacy and ensuring government transparency. While the Secaucus Town Council has thrown its support behind these reforms, the final decision now rests with the Governor.