OPRAmachine blog and tweets

County Board of Elections Update

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

We are pleased to announce that every county board of elections has been added to OPRAmachine as of today. This has been made possible by one of our users who took the time to compile all of the contact information for the boards of elections that we were missing. We are very grateful for the user’s efforts. With election season recently behind us, we are sure that many of our users are interested in researching local elections, so this addition to the site will sure to be of use.

Elimination of Phone Support

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Effective immediately we are eliminating phone support for free users of OPRAmachine. Due to the high volume of calls we have received and limited manpower that we have to answer them, it is no longer sustainable for us to be able to process user support inquiries via phone. Phone support will now be limited to Pro subscribers or for sales inquiries. To receive support for an OPRA request submitted using our service, please mark your request as either having a delivery error or needing administrator attention from the request page on the OPRAmachine website and your issue will be entered into our system.

Planned Maintenance - Weekend of 8/17/2019

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

There will be some planned downtime this weekend as we work to complete scheduled server maintenance and upgrades to the OPRAmachine service. Full service will be restored by Monday. Thank you for your patience as we work to make OPRAmachine even better!

Site Maintenance

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Expect intermittent downtime over the weekend (Saturday June 15th, 2019 through Sunday, June 16th) as we complete maintenance and software upgrades on OPRAmachine systems. UPDATE: We have completed the updates ahead of schedule and site access has been restored. Please reach out to our support team if you encounter any issues.

A reminder about duplicate requests

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

We’re asking users to please be careful when filing new OPRA requests so as to avoid sending duplicates of the same request to public agencies on OPRAmachine. Duplicate requests can complicate things for the administration team as well as government agencies. Often, what will happen is that the government agency will respond to the first request but not the second, while the second request will still show up on OPRAmachine as awaiting a response, which then requires our administrators to take action to remove the duplicate request so as to not skew the statistics produced by our site.

Remarks from the Monmouth County Freeholder meeting

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

OPRAmachine founder Gavin Rozzi spoke at the May 30th, 2019 meeting of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Rozzi’s remarks were made in response to Assignment Judge Lisa P. Thornton’s May 24th ruling in favor of OPRAmachine and its users. The county attempted to deny all requests submitted via our website after one of their employees failed to redact information, despite our attempts to work with the county and rectify their mistake.

Statement on Monmouth County Lawsuit Victory

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

PRESS RELEASE FREEHOLD, NJ – Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lisa P. Thorton ruled on Friday that the county broke the law by refusing to process certain public records requests under a new policy enacted last year, rejecting all of the county’s arguments in favor of refusing to respond to public records requests that will be automatically published online. “This ruling makes clear what we knew from the start: Monmouth County’s unlawful attempt at tightening access to public records because of the negligence of their employees was a blatant attack on the public interest and undermined the public policy of transparency enshrined in New Jersey’s OPRA law,” said Gavin Rozzi, an Ocean County web developer & journalist who founded OPRAmachine in 2017.

OPRAmachine Prevails in Monmouth County Litigation

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Government agencies can’t deny public records requests because they’re automatically published online, Monmouth County Superior Court Assignment Judge Lisa P. Thornton ruled. Our ongoing dispute with Monmouth County has been resolved in favor of OPRAmachine and our users with the recent ruling from Judge Thornton. Last summer, Monmouth County started refusing public records requests submitted by users of OPRAmachine. They adopted a new policy that stated they will deny any public records requests that are submitted through a service that automatically publishes their response online, demanding that users provide direct personal email addresses instead.

NJ Tech Weekly Features OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Esther Surden of NJ Tech Weekly recently interviewed OPRAmachine founder Gavin Rozzi about the impact of the site in a feature article published in May. Gavin Rozzi was a journalist in Ocean County and finishing up his education at Stockton University when he came up with the idea for OPRAmachine. OPRAmachine is an open-source platform that lets citizens easily file requests for public records to their local governments, and it makes the requests and answers available to the public.

Update on recent downtime

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

OPRAmachine experienced some downtime this week due to some complications with our server infrastructure. We have taken steps to fix the problem and apologize to any users who were unable to access the site. We will be undertaking additional upgrades in the near future and will keep the community posted.

How OPRAmachine protects user privacy

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

As a part of OPRAmachine’s 2019 Sunshine Week initiatives and in response to several inquiries from users, we wanted to take a minute to share how we are protecting the privacy of our users. 1. We never publish your email address Your private email address is never revealed to the government or other users when you use OPRAmachine. All a public agency would be able to see is the unique OPRA request email address from the requests.

Rozzi responds to NJ Law Journal article regarding OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

I am writing in response to Jonathan Frodella’s article that appeared in the January 17th, 2019 edition of the New Jersey Law Journal entitled “Victims of Serious Crimes Need More Protection Under OPRA.” Mr. Frodella - whose article was written from the perspective of an attorney that advises municipal clerks - contends that services that automatically publish public records requests and responses such as OPRAmachine, which I founded in 2017, serve to create a “complication” for custodians of records by not requiring individuals to certify whether or not they were convicted of an indictable offense due to the remote possibility of a convicted criminal requesting information about their victims.

PrincetonInfo Interviews OPRAmachine Founder Gavin Rozzi

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

PRINCETON - Gavin Rozzi, founder and lead administrator of OPRAmachine, was interviewed by U.S. 1 News, publishers of the website PrincetonInfo.com From their article: Anyone who has ever tried to request government records in New Jersey knows that authorities and bureaucracies make the information request process intentionally difficult and inconvenient, to discourage the public from seeking information that is required by law to be public. The OPRAMachine bypasses some of this hassle.

Take your public records requests to the next level with OPRAmachine Pro

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Get unlimited requests, private requests and an exclusive dashboard with OPRAmachine Pro, our new tier of service for advanced users. Learn more here

OPRAmachine Wins "Excellence in Local News" Award

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

PRESS RELEASE GREEN BROOK, NJ – Gavin Rozzi, founder and lead administrator of OPRAmachine, announced that he and his team received an award for their work with government transparency and the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Rozzi Media Group, publishers of Ocean County Politics, was awarded the Excellence in Local News Award in the “Innovate Local” category at a ceremony held on Friday in Middlesex County. The award is issued to journalists who “…used new and emerging technologies or strategies to enhance and improve the value and impact of their reporting efforts.

OPRAmachine's 2018 Year in Review

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

OPRAmachine is pleased to announce our 2018 year in review. 2018 was our first full year in operation and brought unprecedented growth to the site. We’ve compiled a video with some of the most interesting statistics we’ve compiled in the past year, including our most popular towns and requests.

Private OPRA requests are here!

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

We are pleased to announce that you can now file private OPRA requests using OPRAmachine! Private OPRA requests can be filed with public agencies if you have an OPRAmachine Pro subscription. With a Pro subscription, you can keep your OPRA requests and documents private, so they won’t show up on the site or in search engines. This feature is geared toward companies and individuals who use OPRAmachine in a professional capacity, such as law firms, private investigators and corporate users.

OPRAmachine lawsuit against Monmouth County being heard Monday

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Our OPRA lawsuit against Monmouth County is scheduled to be heard on Monday, November 26th We are set to have a hearing for our case at 3:00 PM Wendesday before the Monmouth County assignment judge. Read more about the case here Essentially, Monmouth County and its attorneys made a mistake when responding to an OPRA request submitted by an OPRAmachine user. They failed to properly redact documents, and OPRAmachine staff took action to correct their error, and even waived enforcement of our formal takedown policy.

4 Highlights from the latest OPRAmachine update

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

We are pleased to announce the succesful completion of recent upgrades to the underlying code that powers OPRAmachine. After some brief downtime on Saturday, we are pleased to announce the succesful completion of the deployment of the latest changes to the OPRAmachine platform. Here are some of the improvements you can begin taking advantage of immediately: 1. Collapisble correspondence We’ve added the ability to collapse parts of the chain of correspondence on OPRA requests, making it easier to keep things tidy on request threads that have a lot of messages.

Countdown to OPRAmachine's first birthday

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

This month, OPRAmachine will be celebrating its first year of revolutionizing public records & transparency throughout New Jersey. The official one year anniversary of the public launch of the OPRAmachine statewide freedom of information portal will be coming up on October 24th, 2018. Throughout October, we will be reflecting on what the site has accomplished in its first year of public availability. We’ll be talking about the positives, including feedback from users and government officials, in addition to the negatives, such as technical and legal challenges that we have encountered in the course of running the site.

Toms River OPRA impasse resolved

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

We have good news for our users who request records from Toms River Township and the Toms River Police Department For a few months now, we have had an impasse with the Toms River clerk’s office and police department over their refusal to honor requests submitted through OPRAmachine. The township recently purchased a proprietary system from GovQA for handling public records requests and attempted to force OPRAmachine users to submit their requests through the proprietary system, which would have prevented the requests from being published on the OPRAmachine website.

Lawsuit filed to halt Monmouth County's OPRA obstruction

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Monmouth County attorneys unlawfully dodging OPRA requests to cover up county employee negligence This week we announced our multi-plaintiff OPRA lawsuit against the Monmouth County government. Since this summer, Monmouth County officials have been refusing to respond to otherwise legally valid OPRA requests that were submitted using our service. Previously, they had no problem with OPRAmachine, but ever since a county employee failed to properly redact confidential information, county officials have discriminated against OPRAmachine users, refusing their requests solely on the grounds that they dislike the fact that they are automatically published online.

NJFOG OPRA & OPMA Seminar in Essex County

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Our friends at the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government recently hosted an event in Essex County featuring a wealth of information about both the Open Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act. Full video below:

OPRA webinar at Montclair University

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

We recently hosted a webinar at the Montclair University Center for Cooperative Media. We discussed tips and tricks for using OPRAmachine, how the site has served as a public records research tool and platform, along with some of the challenges and interesting use cases for the site.   The webinar was attended by both journalists and other individuals interested in making use of the advanced public records research capabilities provided by our platform.

Jeff Epstein interviews OPRA attorney CJ Griffin

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

OPRAmachine adminstrator & indepdendent journalist Jeff Epstein recently interviewed CJ Griffin, Esq. of the firm Pashman Stein Walder Hayden. Griffin has developed a reputation as one of the leading OPRA advocates in the state. They discussed numerous issues, some of which touched on the OPRAmachine platform and challenges that we have encountered.

Become an OPRA expert with our free webinar

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

In partnership with the Montclair University Center for Cooperative Media, OPRAmachine Founder Gavin Rozzi will be hosting a free in-person and online webinar to talk about how journalists can harness the power of OPRAmachine to simplify public records research. Rozzi will give a step-by-step demonstration along with taking audience questions at the conclusion of the presentation. Here is Montclair’s official announcement of the event, copied below: “Opening up New Jersey government, one request at a time.

Webcast - The OPRAmachine API for developers

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

On June 29th we recorded a webcast highlighting how developers can make use of the OPRAmachine API in order to integrate our extensive data about New Jersey public records into their next web project. Our JSON REST and RSS API endpoints make getting data about public bodies & OPRA requests from around the state, and we can’t wait to see what the data journalism and developer communites are able to create with our data.

Podcast on recent OPRAmachine developments with Jeff Epstein

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

The thousand-dollar email metadata. Pushback from problematic government agencies. Technical challenges of running a statewide freedom of information portal and cutting-edge case law. These are just a few of the topics we address in the latest OPRAmachine podcast interview. On June 21st, I had the pleasure of joining Jeff Epstein of Citizens’ Media TV for a brief interview addressing some recent developments with OPRAmachine and interesting requests and responses generated in the course of its operation.

Legislature moving forward on OPRA reform

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

The New Jersey State Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Commmittee is expected to take action on the OPRA and OPMA reform bills this Thursday, June 14th, 2018. The OPRA reform measure under consideration will, among other things, expand attorney fee awards for prevailing OPRA litigants as well as ensuring that subcommitees of governing bodies are subject to more stringent transparency & disclosure requirements under the law. The OPRAmachine team supports expanding the scope of OPRA as well as attorney fee awards, as we believe both measures hold value in ensuring that OPRA can be an effective oversight tool for state and local government.

Additional county governments added to OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Thanks to the diligent efforts of OPRAmachine administrator Jeff Epstein, we’ve added numerous additional county governments to our database of government agencies today. The additional county governments added today that are now ready to receive requests via OPRAmachine include: Bergen County Essex County Cumberland County Morris County Warren County Sussex County Salem County Hudson County Click on any of the above links to start a new OPRA request or follow requests and responses from these counties.

OPRAmachine now available as a desktop app on Windows & Mac

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

OPRAmachine is proud to announce that our service is now available as a desktop application starting immediately. Our new desktop application provides the same great functionality our users have come to expect on the main OPRAmachine website, but in a new convenient form factor. Depending on the feedback we receive from the community, we may add additional functionality to this app at a later date, so if you’re serious about managing all of your public records requests with OPRAmachine, our app will be something you won’t want to miss.

Lakewood OPRA issue resolved

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

A problem with OPRA requests directed to Lakewood Township (Ocean County) has been resolved by officials from the township clerk’s office, according to an email received by an OPRAmachine user when they reported the problem to Lakewood. Requests delivered via OPRAmachine sent to Lakewood inadvertently got caught up in the township’s spam filter, preventing any of the requests from getting a response from the clerk’s office.

Out of state residents can file OPRA requests, NJ Court Rules

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Individuals who are not residents of New Jersey can file legally valid OPRA requests, a state appellate court ruled. The court ruling was issued by the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court in an OPRA lawsuit brought by open government activist Harry Scheeler, who formerly lived in Atlantic County before moving out of state. This is good news for our international and out-of-state users of OPRAmachine, who have made use of our platform to obtain public information from New Jersey state and local government agencies.

How an OPRAmachine user is investigating Martin Luther King's ties to New Jersey

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Patrick Duff, an OPRAmachine user recently spoke with us to highlight how he is using our platform to conduct public records research regarding the historical significance of South Jersey properties tied to the late civil rights activist Martin Luther King. He also informed us about how one of his public records requests led to a lawsuit against a city government in state Superior Court. Our conversation centered on the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), transparency & open government issues centered on my work with public records and how the three of us have made use of my OPRAmachine platform.

Talking about OPRAmachine's impact on WLFR radio

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

On April 5th, 2018 I had the distinct pleasure of joining Bill Watt, the host of WLFR 91.7 FM’s “Watt’s the Move” to talk about my work with OPRAmachine and open government matters in New Jersey. A video of the segment of the show where we dicussed my work with OPRAmachine and its impact can be viewed here. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.

Combating spam responses to OPRA requests

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Recently, multiple users have brought it to our attention that they have been receiving spam links to viruses or questionable websites in response to their OPRA requests. Today, we have taken action to combat the recent rise in spam that has been impacting our users and cluttering request pages. OPRAmachine has increased our capabilities for dealing with spam, and going forward, spam messages that are flagged by our system will be held back before going out to users and being published to request pages.

Four months later, OPRAmachine is making an impact

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Today marks four months since OPRAmachine was officially launched and made accessible to the general public. Since then, it has been breaking down barriers for access to public information in New Jersey and helping to educate the public about OPRA. Our October 24th, 2017 the launch came after several months worth of technical preparation and trial & error as we learned to work with the open source Alavetelisoftware that powers our backend server as well as the technical challenges of managing the various components of the web service.

OPRA litigation update

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Some requests filed by users of OPRAmachine have resulted in litigation against public agencies for their denial of requests. All of these lawsuits have been filed after requests were originally sent out through our platform. Here are some notable cases of interest: Rozzi v. Office of the Attorney General We have encountered heavy resistance from the state attorney general’s office, as the office has refused to provide emailed responses to OPRA requests submitted by our system.

Downloadable database of OPRA requests now available

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

We are making available a downloadable database of all OPRA requests filed through OPRAmachine for analysis and research purposes. The database will include an index of all OPRA requests filed through OPRAmachine, as well as the current state of each request. We hope this database will be a valuable research tool for those studying OPRA and state & local government in New Jersey. The database can be obtained in SQLite or CSV format, in addition to being able to be accessed over the morph.

Merry Christmas from the OPRAmachine team

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

{}

New & Improved OPRAmachine Documentation Now Available

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Today, OPRAmachine announces the launch of our new documentation website, docs.opramachine.com. Our new documentation website is designed to be a centralized hub for answers to some of the frequently asked questions received by the site administration about how the site works. The new documentation website will include request templates, guides on how to use the site’s functionality, as well as specific guides for requesters and custodians of records making use of OPRAmachine.

Sunlight Foundation Covers Launch of OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

The Sunlight Foundation, a respected nonprofit that focuses on governmental transparency issues, recently covered the launch of OPRAmachine. In the charity’s “Today in OpenGov” blog series, they highlighted OPRAmachine as “…the first implementation of the Alaveteli platform, to operate purely at the state and local level.” Read their full blog post here.  

Webcast: Obtaining court documents & settlement agreements with OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

In this video, we show examples of successful requests for legal documents served on state & local government submitted by users of OPRAmachine, in addition to covering how to use New Jersey state court databases to obtain information about active lawsuits.   The links to the two state court databases used in this webcast are as follows: New Jersey Superior Court ACMS Public Access New Jersey Superior Court Civil Motion Calendar

1000 Requests

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Yesterday, we celebrated the milestone of 1000 OPRA requests filed via OPRAmachine since our launch in late October. Thousands of pages of government documents are now freely available to members of the public on our site. Thank you to our supporters, users and the dedicated civil servants who have made this all possible!

Gavin Rozzi interviewed about OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

OPRAmachine founder Gavin Rozzi was recently interviewed about the site’s first month by the mySociety Foundation, a UK-based nonprofit that created the software that powers the site. Read the full interview here.

Case Study: Local News Website Uses OPRAmachine to Uncover Out-of-Court Sexual Harassment Settlements

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

ATLANTIC COUNTY – One local news website editor is using OPRAmachine’s ability to obtain public records to write about sexual harassment claims that were settled by county officials, reporting details that were previously unknown to the public with the help of our system. This weekend local news site Atlantic County News published an article detailing how that site’s editor made use of OPRAmachine in order to obtain records regarding several recent out-of-court sexual harassment settlements that involved allegations made against county officials.

Track your town’s public records requests on OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

You can use OPRAmachine to easily receive email alerts for specific towns and government agencies as they receive and respond to requests for public records made using our website. Even if you don’t use the site to make your own public records requests, you can become informed about the activities of New Jersey state and local government with OPRAmachine email alerts tailored specifically to the towns and requests you’d like to follow.

Delivery issues on some requests

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

Some requests have been having delivery issues, currently to at least one municipality and one county. The purpose of this blog post is to provide guidance to both members of public sector IT departments / records custodians and the requestors that use OPRAmachine to request information. Are you a records custodian or government official? Please pass this post along to your IT department. Inevitably, as OPRAmachine users make use of the site’s capabilities to send requests to more towns, some firewalls may inadvertently prevent our emails from getting delivered.

Access the records of every N.J. Municipality

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

As of today we are proud to announce that OPRAmachine now reaches every municipality in every county of the State of New Jersey. We now have every municipal government added to our database. This is certainly a milestone for OPRAmachine, but our work is far from over. We still need help adding municipal utilities authorities and various county government agencies.  

Video: How OPRAmachine Works

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

In this video, we give a brief overview of the concept behind OPRAmachine.com.  

For records custodians: How to respond to an OPRA request using OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

The upcoming launch of OPRAmachine is going to make it easier for citizens to obtain public records by way of the Open Public Records Act. In this post, we will explain how records custodians at public agencies can effectively utilize OPRAmachine to respond to requests, both via email and through our online web interface.  

Volunteers needed for data collection

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

We are seeking volunteers to help fill OPRAmachine with more governmental agencies. This is an easy way to get involved in help making government accountable and accessible from the comfort of your home. As it stands now, OPRAmachine will be launching in beta with support for all 33 municipalities, MUAs, school boards and housing authorities for Ocean County. It is the goal of the development team to expand on a county-by-county basis throughout New Jersey in order to bring this powerful tool to more citizens following our launch in Ocean County.

Sign up for the beta test of OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

NOTE: It is no longer necessary to sign up for the beta. You may register for an account on the public OPRAmachine.com website now. If you are interested in beta testing New Jersey’s first online government transparency platform, please complete the following form. We will be accepting applications for beta testers, and when the site is ready for testing, a closed beta will take place to collect feedback before launching the site for the general public.

About OPRAmachine

Posted on by Gavin Rozzi (OPRAmachine)

OPRAmachine is a first of its kind statewide freedom of information portal that helps people obtain public records from New Jersey state and local government agencies. OPRAmachine is based on the open-source Alaveteli freedom of information platform, and is the first deployment of the platform to focus on state & local freedom of information requests. This website is the official blog of the project. We will periodically update this blog with information about the project and other items of interest.