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)

Survey: What Do You Want from OOR Webinars?

Office of Open Records Logo

The Office of Open Records is planning more webinars about the Right-to-Know Law, the Sunshine Act, and related topics.

It would be a huge help to hear from you: What you would like to see in future webinars, what days of the week are best, what times of day are best, etc.

Please help us out by completing this quick survey.

And to be sure you hear about the webinars, subscribe to the OOR’s email newsletter.

Thank you.

OOR Webinars – Last Week & A Look Ahead

Office of Open Records LogoPrior to last week, the Office of Open Records had hosted precisely one webinar. Last week, which was Sunshine Week 2019, we dove in the deep end with nine webinars.

Part of our goal was to see how much interest there might be in this kind of training about the Right-to-Know Law and the Sunshine Act. The OOR has been doing on-site trainings since the law went into effect in 2009, and we don’t intend to stop. But webinars can reach a wider audience more efficiently.

I’m thrilled to report that we had more than 600 people sign up to participate in those nine webinars. (Some of those 600 are repeat customers – people who signed up for more than one.) As a result, we will definitely be scheduling more web-based training sessions.

Of the nine sessions we offered last week, here’s how they ranked in terms of public interest:

  • Sunshine Act Training
  • Basics for New Agency Open Records Officers (AOROs)
  • Recent Court & OOR Decisions of Note
  • About OOR Mediation
  • AOROs: Preparing Affidavits for Appeals
  • OOR Website Resources
  • RTKL Training for Requesters
  • 2019 AORO Survey Results
  • OOR Annual Report

If you’d like to suggest other topics, please let us know. And the best way to be notified of upcoming OOR webinars is to sign up for our email newsletter!

OOR Website Resources – Presentation

This afternoon, the Office of Open Records is hosting a webinar about resources available on our website.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation our Chief of Training & Outreach, George Spiess, prepared for this session:

OOR Website Resources – March 15, 2019 – PDF
OOR Website Resources – March 15, 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 our final webinar for Sunshine Week 2019. Thank you to everyone who joined us! The best way to be notified of upcoming webinars is to sign up for our email newsletter.

2018 OOR Annual Report

This morning, the Office of Open Records is hosting a webinar to release our 2018 Annual Report.

Here’s the 2018 Annual Report:

2018 OOR Annual Report – PDF

And here’s the PowerPoint presentation I prepared for the webinar:

2018 OOR Annual Report Webinar Presentation – March 14, 2019 – PDF
2018 OOR Annual Report Webinar Presentation – March 14, 2019 – PPTX

Previous annual reports are available here.

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 one more webinar after this one. I hope you can join us!

Preparing Affidavits for RTKL Appeals

This afternoon, the Office of Open Records is hosting a webinar designed to help Agency Open Records Officers and agency attorneys better understand how to prepare affidavits when an appeal has been filed under the Right-to-Know Law.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation that our Deputy Director, Nathan Byerly, prepared for this session:

Preparing Affidavits for RTKL Appeals – March 14, 2019 – PDF
Preparing Affidavits for RTKL Appeals – 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!