Presentation to County Treasurers

Office of Open Records LogoEarlier today, I spoke to a gathering of Pennsylvania’s elected county treasurers, hosted by the Pennsylvania State Association of Elected County Officials.

The session, part of a conference running June 11-14, was held in Cranberry Township, Butler County, and it focused on the Right-to-Know Law.

I very much appreciate the invitation.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used:

County Treasurers – June 12, 2019 – PPTX
County Treasurers – June 12, 2019 – PDF

If you’re interested in training about the Right-to-Know Law and/or the Sunshine Act, please let us know.

Corporations Not “Individuals” Under RTKL

Office of Open Records LogoThe Commonwealth Court recently upheld an Office of Open Records decision finding that corporations are not “individuals” under the Right-to-Know Law exception allowing agencies to withhold donor identities (Section 708(b)(13)).

The specific case at issue involved California University of Pennsylvania and a request for records related to donations from Manheim Corporation to the Foundation for Cal U.

Here’s the Commonwealth Court decision, here’s the OOR decision from October 2018, and here’s the OOR docket sheet.

Webinar – RTKL for Law Enforcement

Office of Open Records LogoThe Office of Open Records is hosting a webinar titled The Right-to-Know Law for Law Enforcement on Thursday, June 13, at 10 a.m.

This session, hosted by George Spiess, our Chief of Training and Outreach, will focus on those aspects of the Right-to-Know Law that are specific to police departments, such as investigatory records, the impact of Act 22 of 2017 (which covers police recordings), and CHRIA.

More information about the webinar is available on the OOR’s Training Calendar.

The OOR also has published a RTKL Guide for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Presentation to Media Requesters

This morning at the Office of Open Records in Harrisburg, I hosted a training session for a group of media requesters. The session focused on the Right-to-Know Law.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used:

Media Requester Training – June 6, 2019 – PPTX
Media Requester Training – June 6, 2019 – PDF

If you’re interested in training about the Right-to-Know Law and/or the Sunshine Act, please let us know.

Commonwealth Court: Present All Evidence to the OOR

Office of Open Records LogoIn a ruling earlier this week, the Commonwealth Court made it clear to agencies subject to Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law that when an appeal is filed with the Office of Open Records, the agency should present all of its evidence to the OOR.

The case, Pennsylvania Department of Health et al v. Wallace McKelvey and PennLive, focused on applications submitted to DOH under Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law. (Here’s the complete OOR docket.)

DOH and the companies which submitted the applications asked the Court to allow them to supplement the record with additional information which was not presented to the OOR. The Court denied the request:

“To the extent the record developed before OOR is inadequate, DOH and Permittees are at fault for that inadequacy. Lack of evidence, when the parties and participants had a full opportunity to submit evidence to the fact-finder, is not a valid reason for supplementing the record.”

Using logic that could also be adopted by Courts of Common Pleas, the Court said:

“Moreover, allowing additional evidence at the judicial review stage has implications beyond the present matter. To ensure the RTKL offers an expedient means of access to public records, parties withholding information must be held to their burden of proof. Accepting additional evidence without cause essentially allows agencies to withhold records without legal grounds until reaching a Chapter 13 court, undermining the presumption of openness that forms the foundation of the current RTKL.”

In the decision’s conclusion, the Court wrote:

“OOR afforded extraordinary due process to DOH and Permittees, including multiple opportunities to submit evidence supporting their redactions. DOH and Mission offer no reason for not submitting the evidence they want to submit to this Court during that process. Therefore, we deny their applications for relief seeking to supplement the record.”

On an unrelated point in the same decision, the Court explicitly held that “corporate information is not protected under an individual’s right to privacy” under the state constitution.

Presentations in Hermitage and Saegertown

Today, at the invitation of Senator Michele Brooks, I’ll be speaking to groups in Hermitage (10 a.m.) and Saegertown (2 p.m.). The sessions will focus on the Right-to-Know Law and related topics, with plenty of time for Q&A.

I’m looking forward to two great events, and I very much appreciate the invitation.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I will use:

Hermitage & Saegertown – Sen. Michele Brooks – April 3, 2019 (PDF)
Hermitage & Saegertown – Sen. Michele Brooks – April 3, 2019 (PPTX)

Recent Court and OOR Decisions of Note

This morning, the Office of Open Records is hosting a webinar focusing on recent court and OOR decisions under the Right-to-Know Law and the Sunshine Act.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation that our Chief Counsel, Charles Brown, prepared for this session:

Recent Court and OOR Decisions of Note – March 14, 2019 – PDF
Recent Court and OOR Decisions of Note – March 14, 2019 – PPTX

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.

This is Sunshine Week 2019, and we’re hosting a series of webinars. I hope you can join us for some or all of them!