Speaking to Two Journalism Classes at Penn State

Yesterday, I visited Penn State University to speak to two of Cindy Simmons’ journalism classes about Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

Both were great sessions, and I very much appreciate the invitation.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used:

Penn State University – Cynthia Simmons – Nov. 13, 2018 (PPTX)
Penn State University – Cynthia Simmons – Nov. 13, 2018 (PDF)

If you’re a professor in Pennsylvania and you’d like me to speak to your class about the Right-to-Know Law, let me know and I’ll do my best to make it happen.

Speaking to Students at Penn State

Yesterday, I visited Penn State University to speak to Dr. Ben Cramer’s Telecommunications & the Environment class about Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

It was a great session, and I very much appreciate the invitation.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used:

Penn State University – Dr. Benjamin W. Cramer – Nov. 5, 2018 (PPTX)
Penn State University – Dr. Benjamin W. Cramer – Nov. 5, 2018 (PDF)

If you’re a professor in Pennsylvania and you’d like me to speak to your class, let me know and I’ll do my best to make it happen.

Presentation for OOR’s 2018 Annual Training

Office of Open Records LogoThis afternoon at 2:00 p.m., the Office of Open Records will hold its annual training session on Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law and Sunshine Act.

The session is taking place in Harrisburg, but you can also join us by webinar. (Get all the details and sign up here.) It’s free, and 2 CLEs (1 substantive, 1 ethics) are available for attorneys.

The session will include presentations by me (Erik Arneson), Director of Training and Outreach George Spiess, Chief Counsel Charles Brown, General Counsel Delene Lantz, and Deputy Director Nathan Byerly. We’ve combined all of our PowerPoint slides into a single presentation:

OOR Annual Training 2018 (PPTX)
OOR Annual Training 2018 (PDF)

Complete video will be available sometime after the session ends.

Two Agencies Ordered to Pay Legal Fees to Requesters

Office of Open Records LogoThis year, at least two Pennsylvania courts have ordered government agencies to pay a requester’s legal fees after the agency was found to have been acting in bad faith under the Right-to-Know Law.

The first case (OOR Docket 2017-0994) began with a March 2017 request for records relating to a waste water plant construction project in Reading. After the city invoked a 30-day extension to respond, the request was deemed denied. The requester appealed to the Office of Open Records. The city, which bears the burden of proof under the RTKL, did not make any submissions during the appeal.

In a subsequent appeal also involving Reading (OOR Docket 2018-0244), the OOR found that, “Since January 2017, the OOR has granted eleven other appeals wherein the City invoked a thirty-day extension but ultimately did not respond to the Request or participate on appeal. … [T]he City has repeatedly ignored requests for records and not participated before the OOR. Based on the City’s failure to comply with its statutorily mandated duties under the RTKL, the OOR finds that the City acted in bad faith in the present matter by engaging in the same conduct.”

In August 2018, Judge James M. Lillis of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas ordered the city to pay $12,071.75 in legal fees to the requester.

The second case (OOR Docket 2014-1695) began with a 2014 request for records related to illnesses contracted by inmates and staff members at the state prison in Fayette.

In March 2018, Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court ruled that “some of [the Department of Corrections’] noncompliance [with an OOR order] constitutes bad faith that merits statutory sanctions.”

In October 2018, Judge Simpson ordered DOC to pay $118,458.37 in legal fees to the requester.

Speaking to Journalism Students at Lock Haven University

Yesterday, I visited Lock Haven University to speak to a journalism class about Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

I spoke to Dr. Sharon Stringer’s Communications Law & Ethics class, and it was a great session. I very much appreciate the invitation.

(If you’re a journalism professor in Pennsylvania, let me know if you’d like me to speak to your class and I’ll do my best to make it happen.)

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used:

Lock Haven University – Dr. Sharon Stringer – Oct. 30, 2018 (PPTX)
Lock Haven University – Dr. Sharon Stringer – Oct. 30, 2018 (PDF)

Draft Update to RTKL Flowchart

RTKL Flow Chart DRAFTMany years ago, the Office of Open Records created a flowchart to help explain Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law process to both agencies and requesters.

In response to some suggestions to make the flowchart even more useful, we’re updating it. And we’d love to have your input.

Here are two versions of the flow chart, both in PDF. The current version first, followed by the draft update:

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, please do! Leave a comment on this blog post, or use the OOR’s comment form.

Presentation for Requester Training

Earlier today, the Office of Open Records hosted a training session designed for requesters here at our office in Harrisburg.

Topics covered include how to write a good RTKL request, accessing information in databases, significant deadlines in the RTKL, how to appeal a RTKL denial, and more.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used for this session:

RTKL Training for Requesters – Oct. 11, 2018 (PPTX)
RTKL Training for Requesters – Oct. 11, 2018 (PDF)

The OOR regularly provides training on Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law and Sunshine Act. Our training calendar is available here, and we always welcome requests to provide training.

Some upcoming training sessions of note include: