The law is settled that draft documents are confidential under OPRA’s exemption for deliberative material, but requestors still seek access to such records. In an opinion issued today, the Appellate Division upheld the denial of access to a draft report. North Jersey Media v. Clifton.
The report in question was from an accounting firm to the City of Clifton, concerning issues related to changes in the City’s payroll practices. The court determined that the report was clearly a draft, emphasizing that the report underwent several revisions at Clifton’s request. The court then applied the law that predecisional drafts are protected from disclosure under the exemption for deliberative material.
This case is another example of a problem I’ve previously discussed–the cost to the public of meritless OPRA litigation pursued by requestors. Here, the City had to spend public funds defending, in both the trial and appellate courts, its clear legal right to withhold a draft document.