The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania recently asked me to contribute an article to the Fall 2019 issue of Pennsylvania County News, which I was happy to do.
Here’s the complete text of that article.
Balancing the public’s right to know with confidentiality laws and privacy interests
Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) presumes that all government records are available to the public – but it also recognizes that there are times records must be shielded to comply with confidentiality laws, to respect various privileges, and to protect legitimate privacy interests.
In our training sessions, the Office of Open Records (OOR) often points out that the RTKL is not itself a confidentiality law. In other words, the RTKL does not require agencies to withhold any records. Instead, it allows agencies to withhold records when certain conditions apply. (For example, records can be withheld if their disclosure would endanger public safety, reveal police notes about an investigation, or identify an individual receiving social services.)
But there are laws which require confidentiality, and those laws must be followed.