2019 OOR Annual Report

2019 was the second-busiest year ever for the Office of Open Records. That’s one of the facts included in the OOR’s newly released 2019 Annual Report.

The OOR is required to “annually report on its activities and findings to the Governor and the General Assembly” (Section 1310(a)(9) of the Right-to-Know Law). Typically, the annual report is released during Sunshine Week in early March. This year, issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the release for about a month, but here’s our 2019 Annual Report:

2019 OOR Annual Report – PDF

Highlights from the report include:

  • 2,658 appeals were filed in 2019, making it the second-busiest year on record.
  • The current three-year average is 2,440 appeals; the current five-year average is 2,470.
  • More than half (51.6%) of the appeals docketed in 2019 were filed by everyday citizens.
  • About 75% of the appeals filed in 2019 involved local agencies.
  • The OOR conducted 105 mediations in 2019.
  • The OOR led or participated in 88 training sessions in 2019.
  • The OOR responded to 1,006 RTKL requests in 2019 (a record high), although the vast majority were misdirected.

Previous annual reports are available here.

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!

54 Training Sessions in 2017

More than 1,900 people attended official Office of Open Records training sessions in 2017. We traveled the state again, including visits to Charleroi, Doylestown, Grove City, Pittsburgh, Roaring Branch, and Summerdale.

The OOR provides training on the Right-to-Know Law and the Sunshine Act.

We’re back on the road in 2018 — and this year we’ll also be conducting training sessions online.

Our training schedule can be found here.

This information is from the OOR’s 2017 Annual Report.

110 Mediations in 2017

The Office of Open Records conducted 110 Right-to-Know Law mediations in 2017.

Our mediation program can be an effective way to resolve disputes between requesters and agencies. Many of our Appeals Officers are also trained mediators and can conduct mediations via telephone or in person.

When a mediation is successful, the appeal is withdrawn — saving both sides the effort of engaging in a formal appeal process and ensuring that the case never goes to court.

Either side can choose to end mediation at any time; if this happens, the OOR’s traditional appeal process begins.

More about our mediation program can be found here.

This information is from the OOR’s 2017 Annual Report.

Map: Appeals in 2017 by County

More Right-to-Know Law appeals were filed involving local agencies in Allegheny County — including the county itself, school districts, authorities, municipalities, etc. — than in any other county in 2017. (Allegheny County is home to about 130 municipalities and about 40 school districts.)

The top 10 counties by this measure were:

  • Allegheny, 166
  • Philadelphia, 157
  • Dauphin, 119
  • Delaware, 97
  • Lehigh, 89
  • Montgomery, 89
  • York, 71
  • Luzerne, 65
  • Bucks, 55
  • Berks, 51

2017 - Statewide Map

This map shows the number of non-inmate appeals involving local agencies which were filed with the OOR in 2017. All local agencies (e.g., county government, school districts, municipalities, etc.) are included in each county total.

The top 10 counties by this measure are all among the top 15 most populous counties in Pennsylvania.

This information is from the OOR’s 2017 Annual Report.

Issues Raised by Agencies During RTKL Appeals in 2017

In 2017, for the first time ever, the Office of Open Records tracked the issues raised by agencies and addressed by the OOR’s Appeals Officers during Right-to-Know Law appeals.

This data gives some insight into the reasons most commonly raised by agencies for denying access to records.

Of the 30 exemptions specifically enumerated in Section 708(b) of the RTKL, these 11 were raised most often in 2017:

  • Criminal Investigative Records, (b)(16), 156
  • Noncriminal Investigative Records, (b)(17), 127
  • Personal Identification Information, (b)(6), 104
  • Personal Security, (b)(1), 72
  • Internal, Predecisional Deliberations, (b)(10), 71
  • Public Safety, (b)(2), 65
  • Agency Employee Information, (b)(7), 34
  • Trade Secret / Confidential Proprietary Information, (b)(11), 32
  • Building, Infrastructure and Utility Safety, (b)(3), 29
  • Procurement Prior to Award of Contract, (b)(26), 20
  • Notes and Working Papers, (b)(12), 20

The OOR’s Appeals Officers also heard hundreds of cases in which the agency asserted that the requested records didn’t exist (426), the requested records weren’t in the possession of the agency (184), and the request wasn’t specific enough or asked questions rather than seeking records (117).

Many appeals heard by the OOR involve more than one exemption and/or other reasons for denying access to records.

We will continue to track this data in coming years. Over time, the comparison between years should become a useful tool.

This information is from the OOR’s 2017 Annual Report.

532 Appeals Involving State Agencies in 2017

In 2017, the Department of Corrections was involved in 23.3% of Right-to-Know Law appeals filed against state agencies.

Here’s the complete list:

  • Department of Corrections, 23.3%
  • State Police, 13.7%
  • Department of Environmental Protection, 8.3%
  • Department of State, 7.0%
  • Department of Transportation, 6.2%
  • Department of Health, 5.5%
  • Board of Probation and Parole, 5.1%
  • Department of Human Services, 2.6%
  • Department of Education, 2.1%
  • Department of Labor and Industry, 1.9%
  • Other, 24.4%

This information is from the OOR’s 2017 Annual Report.