NEWS RELEASE: Office of Open Records Releases Report on Right-To-Know Law Information Posted on Government Agency Websites

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 31, 2021

Link to Report

HARRISBURG (August 31, 2021) – The Office of Open Records (OOR) released a report finding that while most government agencies in Pennsylvania provide Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) information on their websites, improvements can still be made to increase citizens’ access to public records. 

“I am pleased that the overwhelming majority of agencies we reviewed provide some information about the RTKL on their websites,” said Executive Director Liz Wagenseller. Informing citizens how to use the law reinforces an agency’s commitment to accountability.”

The OOR’s report, “2021 Agency Website Review,” summarizes the findings of OOR’s review of a sample of 135 state and local agencies’ websites. While 91 percent of agencies post something about the RTKL on their websites, the compliance for the four specific mandated pieces of information are not as universal:

  • 96 percent provide contact information for the agency open records officer;
  • 62 percent provide contact information for the Office of Open Records or other applicable appeals officer;
  • 81 percent provide a request form; and
  • 59 percent provide regulations, policies, and procedures of the agency relating to the RTKL.

Just 50 percent of agencies provide all of the first three[1] items.

“Meeting these requirements is simple and easy. If accountability is a priority, an agency will invite scrutiny, not avoid it,” said Wagenseller. “I hope that all agencies use this report to review their compliance and add the necessary information.”

As the report outlines, failing to provide accurate, comprehensive, and accessible RTKL information may lead to requester errors or an assumption that the agency is not subject to the law. The very basic first step in transparency is giving requesters the necessary tools and information needed.

The report outlines best practices beyond providing the statutorily required information. The OOR’s recommendations include:

  • Ensuring the information is simple to locate;
  • Providing electronic and printable request forms;
  • Including links to frequently requested items; and
  • Linking to a municipality’s RTKL information if a police department utilizes the municipality’s open records officer.

The report includes a sample RTKL webpage posting that can be found here. Review the report and learn more about the Office of Open Records at www.OpenRecords.pa.gov.

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[1] An agency is not required to have regulations, policies, and procedures relating to the RTKL, but must provide them if they do exist.

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