Webinar – Basics for Agency Open Records Officers

Office of Open Records LogoThe Office of Open Records is hosting a webinar tomorrow (Tuesday, July 23) at 10:00 a.m. titled Basics for Agency Open Records Officers (AOROs).

This session focuses on what new AOROs need to know to respond accurately and efficiently to Right-to-Know Law requests, including agency obligations, prohibitions, deadlines, payment issues, and tips on managing an agency’s records.

The session will be hosted by George Spiess, the OOR’s Director of Training and Outreach. There will be plenty of time for questions from attendees.

More information and details on how to join the webinar are available via the OOR’s Training Calendar.

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!

2019 AORO Survey Data & Presentation

Earlier this afternoon, the Office of Open Records hosted a webinar about the 2019 Survey of Agency Open Records Officers (AOROs).

This is the third statewide survey of AOROs, the people directly responsible for responding to Right-to-Know Law requests.

Some highlights:

  • We received 1,054 survey responses from a wide variety of agency types.
  • Responses were received from agencies in all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties.
  • More than 90% of agencies reported spending less than 5 hours per week responding to RTKL requests. (That includes 61.5% of agencies which spent less than 1 hour per week.)
  • The median number of requests received was 13.5; the average was 43.2.
  • 509 agencies reported receiving 12 or fewer requests.
  • 101 agencies reported receiving 100 or more requests.
  • The majority (51.2%) of requests were “general requests.” The next largest category was commercial requests (30.2%). News media requests were just 3.8% of the total.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used for this session, which includes more data from the survey and related information:

AORO Survey Results Webinar – March 12, 2019 – PDF
AORO Survey Results Webinar – March 12, 2019 – PPTX

And here’s the underlying data, exported into Excel files in the three ways Survey Monkey allows (all three are ZIP files):

2019_AORO_All_Summary_Data
2019_AORO_All_Responses_Data
2019_AORO_All_Individual_Responses

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!

Basics for New AOROs – Presentation

This morning, the Office of Open Records hosted a webinar designed for new Agency Open Records Officers (AOROs).

Topics covered include agency obligations under the Right-to-Know Law, what to do when a request is received, fees and payments, and the OOR’s appeal process.

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

Basics for New AOROs Webinar- March 12, 2019 – PDF
Basics for New AOROs Webinar- March 12, 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!

New Searchable AORO Database

Last week, the Office of Open Records (“OOR”) launched a searchable online database of Agency Open Records Officer (“AORO”) contact information for every registered agency in the Commonwealth.

The AORO database allows the public to contact the correct AORO to request agency records and ensures that the OOR can contact AOROs in the event an appeal is filed with the OOR.

You can find the database here: http://www.openrecords.pa.gov/RTKL/AOROSearch.cfm

First-Ever Survey of AOROs

Open records_logo stackedThe vast majority of government agencies in Pennsylvania — 87.4% — received 1 or fewer Right-to-Know (RTK) requests per week in 2016.

Similarly, 72.8% of agencies spent 1 hour or less per week (and 91.8% spent 5 hours or less) responding to RTK requests in 2016.

Those are some of the highlights from the first-ever statewide survey of Agency Open Records Officers (AOROs), the people responsible for responding to requests filed under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). The survey was conducted by the Office of Open Records’ (OOR) in February 2017.

Nearly 1,300 AOROs responded, including Commonwealth agencies and local agencies of all types (i.e., municipalities, school districts, counties, police departments, charter schools, and more). We worked with numerous organizations and the Governor’s office to get as many responses as possible.

The OOR has always had good data on appeals filed under the RTKL (because the vast majority of appeals are filed with the OOR), but this survey was the first large-scale attempt to collect good data about the requests received by agencies.

(As a result of House Resolution 50, the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee has conducted a second statewide survey of AOROs. The OOR provided input to LBFC, and I expect that survey to provide additional insights.)

The OOR’s survey asked five substantive questions:

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Agency Open Records Officer Guidebook

The Office of Open Records website (which, by the way, is scheduled to get a much-improved look and feel tomorrow!) includes numerous guides about the Right-to-Know Law for both requesters and agencies.

The newest — and most comprehensive — of these is our new Agency Open Records Officer Guidebook (PDF).

The AORO Guidebook, 79 pages in total (with a variety of sample forms agencies can use as templates), is designed to provide a general overview of the RTKL process from an agency perspective. We tried to write it to be helpful for both new and veteran AOROs.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please post them here or tweet to @ErikOpenRecords or @OpenRecordsPA. You can also email us at openrecords@pa.gov.