Case Law Citations from 2020 Annual Training

Open records_logo stackedDuring yesterday’s Annual Training on Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law and Sunshine Act conducted by the Office of Open Records, Chief Counsel Charles Brown discussed recent court cases of note.

Here are the citations to the cases he discussed:

  • Easton Area Sch. Dist. v. Miller, 232 A.3d 716 (Pa. 2020)
  • ACLU of Pa. v. Pa. State Police, 232 A.3d 654 (Pa. 2020)
  • City of Hbg. v. Prince, 219 A.3d 602 (Pa. 2019)
  • Payne v. Pa. Dep’t of Health, 2020 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 700, No. 579 C.D. 2019 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2020)
  • Smart Communications Holdings, Inc. v. Wishnefsky, 2020 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 707, No. 80 C.D. 2019 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2020)
  • Pa. Dep’t of Lab. & Indus. v. Darlington, 234 A.3d 865 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2020)
  • Pa. Trpk. Comm’n v. Elec. Transactions Consultants Corp., 230 A.3d 548 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2020)
  • Pa. Pub. Util. Comm’n v. Friedman, 2020 Pa. Commw. Unpub. LEXIS 505, No. 980 C.D. 2019 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2020)
  • Pa. Liquor Control Bd. v. Burns, 2020 Pa. Commw. Unpub. LEXIS 313, No. 1159 C.D. 2019 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2020)

The OOR’s Right-to-Know Law Case Law Index is also a useful resource.

Survey Results: COVID-19’s Impact on RTKL & Sunshine Act

Open records_logo stackedThe Office of Open Records recently conducted two surveys about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the administration of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law (open records law) and Sunshine Act (open meetings law).

Some of the highlights were discussed yesterday at the OOR’s 2020 Annual Training, and here are the complete results:

Results from the COVID-19 Survey for AOROs (377 responses)
Results from the COVID-19 Survey for Requesters (26 responses)

Please note that approximately 40 executive agencies submitted a single joint response to the AORO survey, which the OOR thanks them for. Consequently, some of the results in that survey require deeper analysis to be considered truly representative.

Also note that due to the relatively small number of responses to the requester survey, it’s difficult (perhaps impossible) to draw any broad conclusions. However, I do believe some significant and useful information can be gleaned from reviewing those results.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to answer either of the surveys. We appreciate it.

OOR 2020 Annual Training – Complete Video

Open records_logo stackedThe Office of Open Records held its 2020 annual training yesterday via Zoom.

Most years, our Annual Training only includes voices from the OOR. This year, the training focused on the impact of COVID-19 on the administration of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law and Sunshine Act and we were joined by several extremely smart and knowledgeable people from outside the OOR. The complete lineup included:

  • Erik Arneson, OOR Executive Director
  • Charles Rees Brown, Esq., OOR Chief Counsel
  • Nathanael Byerly, Esq., OOR Deputy Director
  • Scott Coburn, Esq., PA State Association of Township Supervisors
  • Thomas Howell, Esq., PA Office of General Counsel Deputy General Counsel
  • Delene Lantz, Esq., OOR General Counsel
  • Melissa Melewsky, Esq., PA NewsMedia Association Media Law Counsel
  • George Spiess, OOR Chief of Outreach and Training

The complete video of the OOR’s 2020 Annual Training is available on the OOR YouTube channel (and below).

The PowerPoint presentation used during the training is available here:

OOR Annual Training – Nov. 18, 2020 (PPTX)
OOR Annual Training – Nov. 18, 2020 (PPTX)

Information about other OOR training sessions, including upcoming webinars, can be found on the OOR’s Training Calendar.

Presentation from Today’s OOR Annual Training

Open records_logo stackedEarlier this afternoon, the Office of Open Records hosted its Annual Training on the RTKL and the Sunshine Act.

The PowerPoint presentation used during that session is available here:

OOR Annual Training – Nov. 18, 2020 (PPTX)
OOR Annual Training – Nov. 18, 2020 (PPTX)

We plan to provide the entire session on the OOR’s YouTube channel as soon as possible.

Information about other OOR training sessions, including upcoming webinars, can be found on the OOR’s Training Calendar.

OOR Annual Training: Today at 1:30 p.m.

Open records_logo stackedThe Office of Open Records is hosting its Annual Training today (Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020) at 1:30 p.m.

This year’s session will focus on how the pandemic has affected the Right-to-Know Law and the Sunshine Act.

Scheduled panelists include:

  • Erik Arneson, OOR Executive Director
  • Charles Rees Brown, Esq., OOR Chief Counsel
  • Nathanael Byerly, Esq., OOR Deputy Director
  • Scott Coburn, Esq., PA State Association of Township Supervisors
  • Thomas Howell, Esq., PA Office of General Counsel Deputy General Counsel
  • Michael F. Krimmel, Esq., Commonwealth Court Prothonotary
  • Delene Lantz, Esq., OOR General Counsel
  • Melissa Melewsky, Esq., PA NewsMedia Association Media Law Counsel
  • George Spiess, OOR Chief of Outreach and Training

You can get more details and register for the Annual Training here. Unfortunately, CLEs are not available this year.

We plan to record today’s Annual Training to make it available on the OOR’s YouTube channel.

Information about other OOR training sessions, including upcoming webinars, can be found on the OOR’s Training Calendar.

OOR Conducting Surveys About the COVID-19 Pandemic

Open records_logo stackedThe Office of Open Records is conducting two surveys about the administration of the Right-to-Know Law and the Sunshine Act during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We would love to have your input.

If you are an Agency Open Records Officer (AORO), please complete this 34-question survey.

If you are a requester (e.g., member of the public, reporter, etc.), please complete this 25-question survey.

Each survey should take about 10 minutes. The deadline to complete the surveys is Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.

The survey results will be discussed at the OOR’s Annual Training on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, and will also be posted here on the Open Records in Pennsylvania blog. Note that all survey responses are records under the RTKL.

OOR 2020 Annual Training: Nov. 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Open records_logo stackedThe Office of Open Records is hosting its Annual Training on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, at 1:30 p.m.

This year’s session will focus on how the pandemic has affected the Right-to-Know Law and the Sunshine Act. It’s scheduled to include representatives of the OOR, state agencies, local agencies, and the media. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers.

You can get more details and register for the Annual Training here. Unfortunately, CLEs are not available this year.

Information about other OOR training sessions, including upcoming webinars, can be found on the OOR’s Training Calendar.

OOR Reviewing RTKL Fee Schedule, Seeking Input

Open records_logo stackedSection 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 October 2018. Today, our biannual review of the RTKL Fee Schedule officially begins for 2020.

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 Monday, November 30, 2020.

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.

RTKL Webinar for Requesters

Office of Open Records LogoThis morning, I hosted a webinar about the Right-to-Know Law designed for requesters, including members of the media and anyone interested in accessing government records in Pennsylvania.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used: The Right-to-Know Law for Requesters

The OOR regularly hosts webinars and in-person training sessions about various topics related to the Right-to-Know Law and the Sunshine Act. Check our calendar for details, and feel free to request a specific training session.

Act 77 of 2020: Guidelines Published by the Office of Open Records

NOTE: These guidelines are also available as a PDF.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged public agencies across Pennsylvania to find a way to continue providing access to public records and public meetings during a time when many offices were physically closed and social distancing requirements prevented large gatherings.

Among the many lessons learned are that good communication, always essential in the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) process, is even more necessary during a disaster declaration. Agencies should remember that transparency builds trust, especially in times of crisis. Likewise, requesters should consider whether a records request can wait and be made after the disaster declaration has ended. When a request is made, requesters should consider the circumstances and extend common courtesy and patience to the responding agency. Reasonableness is key. The RTKL works best as a collaborative effort rather than an adversarial process.

It is also useful to remember that the formal RTKL process is not required to request or provide access to records. Informal requests and responses can be more efficient because they come with fewer administrative requirements.

Act 77 of 2020 requires the Office of Open Records (“OOR”) to “publish guidelines for a Commonwealth agency specifying how the Commonwealth agency is required to respond to a request for records made during a disaster declaration when the Governor has ordered the Commonwealth agency to close the Commonwealth agency’s physical location.”

Those guidelines must be published “[n]o later than five days after the effective date of this section.” Accordingly, the following guidelines are hereby published by the OOR.

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