Transparency Zone, October 2022

Aggregate data about disability services provided to students may be public information.  2022-1989

Agency proved that it has not promulgated regulations defining “chicken meal” and thus a document responsive to the Request does not exist. 2022-2254

An agency may not be allowed to withhold a surveillance video if sensitive images may be blurred (“redacted”). 2022-1908

The Disease Prevention and Control Law allows the withholding of lead testing results even if the identities of individuals can be redacted. 2022-1724

If an agency has the technical ability to securely redact the responsive records electronically, it may not charge the requester for printing fees. 2022-2098

Annual Training is November 15

The Office of Open Records (OOR) will conduct its annual Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) and Sunshine Act training on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 10 a.m. This year’s session, which will be held via Microsoft Teams, will include the following topics:

  • Basics of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law,
  • Best practices and tips for requesting records, and
  • Best practices and tips for agencies when dealing with Right-to-Know requests and appeals.

The OOR’s Annual Training is free and open to everyone. Attendees will have ample opportunity to ask questions.  Visit https://www.openrecords.pa.gov/ for information on how to participate in this year’s session.  

OOR Reviewing RTKL Fee Schedule, Seeking Comments

Section 1307 of the Right-To-Know Law requires the Office of Open Records to establish a RTKL Fee Schedule for Commonwealth agencies and local agencies. Section 1310 of the RTKL requires the OOR to review that fee schedule every other year.

The OOR last updated the fee schedule in 2020. Today, our biannual review of the RTKL Fee Schedule officially begins for 2022.

We welcome your input. Please send all comments about the RTKL Fee Schedule to this email address:

FeeReviewOOR@pa.gov

The deadline to submit comments is Wednesday, November 30, 2022.

PUBLIC RECORD NOTICE: All comments submitted to the Office of Open Records will be public records and subject to public access with limited exceptions. If you do not want to include personal contact information in a publicly accessible record, please provide alternate contact information.

Transparency Zone: September 2022

No reasonable expectation of privacy exists for names and addresses listed on construction permits, thus that information may not be redacted. 2022-1719

A requester may not be prohibited from taking photographs when inspecting electronic copies of various financial records. 2022-1626

Autopsy and toxicology reports held by a county coroner are not protected from disclosure by HIPAA and the Privacy Rule. 2022-1706

Applications of individuals not selected for a position are exempt records. 2022-1612

2022 AORO Survey Data

Over the summer, we conducted a survey of Agency Open Records Officers (AOROs) to get a sense of the volume and complexity of the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) requests they’ve received in 2021 and 2020. We received responses from 983 AOROs across the state.

As in recent years, roughly a third of agencies report receiving more than 20 RTKL requests a year. The biggest change compared to previous years is the average number of hours per week that the agency spends on RTKL requests. In 2021, a majority (41 percent) of AOROs estimated that their agency spent more than two hours a week on RKTL requests; in 2019, just 20 percent said the same.

The complete results are below.

Transparency Zone: August 2022

Many records related to a Hepatitis A outbreak at a restaurant are protected under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. 2022-1414

If records are presented to a quorum of a board, an agency may not withhold the records by claiming they reflect internal, predecisional deliberations.  2022-0923

A request for county records related to the 2020 election must be granted because the agency provided no evidence to support why various exemptions it cited should be applied. 2022-1542

Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act prohibits the release of records related to the purchase of a firearm or application for a license to carry a firearm. 2022-1249

Transparency Zone, July 2022

Here are some final determinations of note from July of 2022.

If a requester is unable to access or print public records available on a website, the agency must print and provide them. 2022-1552

Agency bank account numbers do not constitute exempt personal identification information and agencies cannot redact them on that basis. 2022-1227

Proposal bid documents prior to the awarding of a contract are exempt from the RTKL. 2022-1037

In an otherwise public record, students’ faces in a video taken at a school may be blurred to protect privacy2022-1009

New Process for Appeals!

Might you be involved in a RTKL appeal? If so, we have important news to share.

Here’s the headline:

Beginning August 1, 2022, all appeals involving Commonwealth agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction, with a few exceptions, will be processed through the E-File Appeal Portal.  This is the first of three phases as we move ALL appeals to this new system. The OOR E-File Appeal Portal User Guide can be found here, and OOR staff will be prepared to answer questions as users navigate the new process.  

Below are the details, including what to expect next.

The OOR is moving forward with our E-File Appeal Portal, with the goal of having all Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) appeals processed through the portal by spring of 2023. An early testing phase was conducted with most Commonwealth agencies and, after using the system for several months and making improvements based on what was learned, the OOR is ready to expand the usage to more Commonwealth and local agencies. 

The transition to universal use of the E-file Appeal Portal will occur through a three-phase process for the purpose of exposing all agencies, from the largest Commonwealth agency to the smallest local agency, to the E-File Appeal Portal system and having all users gain a proficiency in using the system.

Phase 1:  Beginning August 1, 2022, all appeals involving Commonwealth agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction, with a few exceptions, will be processed through the E-File Appeal Portal. 

Phase 2: Currently scheduled to begin in October 2022, in Phase 2, local agencies will be chosen at random though a yet to be established interval, i.e. every third appeal received.  In this phase, the OOR will not seek permission from the parties prior to assigning the appeal to the E-File Appeal Portal.  Advanced notice of Phase 2’s start date will be widely publicized and is likely to come in mid-September.

Phase 3: The final phase will consist of a firm date when all appeals will be assigned to and processed through the E-File Appeal Portal, subject to limited exceptions such as, individuals without email access.  The beginning date is anticipated to be the spring of 2023.  A firm date for Phase 3 will be provided in early 2023.

You may want to refer to the OOR E-File Appeal Portal User Guide.  Please review it with your relevant staff and stakeholders.  The User Guide will be available on the OOR’s website.  In addition, more information will be provided during the OOR’s Annual Training. OOR staff will be available for questions, resolve any user problems, and receive feedback.  We are looking forward to working with all of you towards the goal of establishing the E-File Appeal Portal as a speedier and more efficient system for processing RTKL appeals for the Commonwealth.