An inside look at the Atlantic County Government, thanks to New Jersey’s OPRA Law

Gavin Rozzi’s new website OPRA Machine is an amazing new tool, which instantly rectifies the outdated and “intentionally cumbersome” practice of filing a New Jersey Open Public Records Act request to state and local government agencies. Here’s how this transformational new tool has enabled Atlantic County News to report on the inner workings of the Atlantic County

A screenshot of the OPRAmachine website.

You NEED to know about OPRA… PERIOD. If you do not, then make it your business to do so today, and then hit up OPRA Machine and start saving New Jersey, one request at a time! It’s easy, free, and confidential!

Here’s what you need to know;

Chances are that if you’re on this website, you’re already aware of the fact that New Jersey is the most corrupt state in the United States. It contains the worst rated American cities to live in for crime, taxes, and economics, but these things are no accident.

Through the political appointment process, politicians have spent countless decades building this corruption empire, which you not only live in, but that you also fund and support. That ends with OPRA Machine.

Most citizens are completely unaware of the criminal antics that go on within their county and municipal governments, but most all have heard rumors about it. Well now you can turn those rumors into: better school systems, lower taxes, lower crime rates, a stronger local economy, and even CASH in you pocket!

How? Read on…

How Public Documents Allow For More Detailed Reporting

If you read the recent Atlantic County News  article regarding Sexual Harassment in the Atlantic County Dept. of Law, then you became informed about the alleged conditions in the Atlantic County office building. But thanks to OPRA Machine, the writer was able to provide proof that these conditions actually exist, and that your taxes are paying to hide them.

That is the power of OPRA. It quickly settles the argument between True or False, Fact or Gossip, and Legal or Illegal.

However OPRA isn’t new, so what’s so revolutionary about OPRA Machine?

Well the obvious is that you can now easily submit OPRA Requests from your phone or PC, but that’s still not the genius behind it – the real genius is how it is building a comprehensive database of public documents from all 565 of New Jersey’s municipalities and their respective counties, and it’s all freely available to the public. So you can learn something from the site even if you don’t make a request.

First it’s important to know that; Everything the government does is “public knowledge”. They’re not allowed to keep secrets from the voters and tax payers about the decisions that they make or the money that they spend.

However, politicians have an arsenal of old tricks that they’ve always used to dodge OPRA laws. For instance, they often simply claim ignorance to the law, so that they can delay answering your requests, then they use that time to doctor, concoct, and edit the information that you’re requesting, but their excuses are also Open Public Information!

Ha! Yes I know that when you’re in court, ignorance is no excuse, but sorry, that only applies to citizens, not law makers and politicians.

Moving on!

OPRA requests have to be answered within seven days. Seems tight right? Not really. Remember, this is open public information, which they’re required to maintain by law, so it’s like a policeman asking you for your insurance. If you’re compliant and have nothing to hide, you should be able to do so instantly…

So in actuality, seven days is extremely generous.

Enter OPRA Machine.

The old method of requesting was either in person or via U.S. Mail. So it took a lot of time to research, write, mail, wait, argue, respond, wait, clarify, wait… As you can imagine, it wasn’t unusual for a seven day request to take months, or for the requester to simply give up. Government wins, Public loses.

With OPRA Machine, now you can simply submit online in seconds! And it automatically tracks and times your request, which eliminates many of the hurdles that were traditionally needed to obtain public records. Slam dunk! But that’s still not the best part of it.

Not only is your request publicly displayed for the entire internet to see, but so is the outcome, and all of the correspondence and clarification back and forth! So now, when the government claims ignorance, everyone gets to see the lame excuse and just how many times that they use it!

So if you’re still wondering how to use OPRA as an effective anti corruption tool, well that’s simple. Lets use the reconstruction of Airport Circle as an example.

Everyone commuting through that area in Atlantic County believes that the new circle is horrible compared to the old, that it was all political, and that it must have cost a ton of money to complete.

There are a lot of rumors, speculations, and allegations in that statement, but with OPRA, we can prove it, and if we can prove that laws were broken or that there were ethics violations, then we can also hold people accountable for them.

In this case, you can OPRA the Freeholder minutes (public or executive session) discussing the issue, email correspondence between county officials discussing the issue, bills, payments, vendor history reports, bid documents, traffic studies before and after, contracts… whatever you like.

The large swathes of documents generated by all levels of the bureaucracy are available to the public under the OPRA law, and I have found OPRA Machine to be an effective tool in making sense of it all. You can even use existing successful requests on the site as a model for your own requests/

Still not sure what to OPRA, well listen to rumors, interact on social media and out in the grocery store. Get the gossip, and then hit up OPRA Machine and get to the bottom of it!

In terms of advancing New Jerseyans toward ridding the state of corruption and mismanagement, using outdated paper forms, fax machines, or even the state’s outdated online system to file OPRA requests is like crossing the Delaware.

OPRA Machine is like doing it in the space shuttle!

Okay so if you’ve hung on for the CASH part… New Jersey’s OPRA Laws allow you to sue the government entity for attorney’s fees and a court order to obtain the records if they don’t comply, so it’s rapidly becoming a full time job for those savvy enough to get involved in taking these cases!

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