Highlights from the OOR’s 2015 Annual Report

Today is the first day of Sunshine Week, and the Office of Open Records has traditionally released its Annual Report during Sunshine Week.

The OOR’s Annual Report for 2015 is available here. (Previous reports can be downloaded here.)

Some highlights from 2015 include:

  • 2,926 appeals filed last year, a record total.
  • 1,794 appeals involving local agencies vs. 1,132 involving state agencies.
  • For the first time, the Annual Report provides a county-by-county looks at local agency appeals.
  • 5 of the top appellate court decisions involving the RTKL.
  • 10 examples of records accessed via the RTKL.
  • 54 training sessions conducted across the state for about 1,500 people.
  • A look at what the OOR might face in the future.

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. As part of Sunshine Week, I’ll be analyzing some of the data in the OOR Annual Report, along with some data that didn’t make the final report — and more — right here on our blog and also on our Twitter feeds:

January 2016 – 122 Appeals Filed

A total of 122 appeals were filed in January. That’s far below the 239 filed in December (which set a record for December) or the 353 filed in October (our all-time single month record) — but it’s right in line with the average number of appeals filed in January. (From 2009 through 2015, an average of 124.6 appeals were filed in January.)

It’s far too early to know what the year ahead holds, of course, but January tends to be a low-volume month. From 2009 to 2015, fewer appeals were filed in January than any other month. (February was only slightly higher; the numbers go up significantly in March through December.)

It’s hard to say why this is, but my working theory is that it relates to the holiday season — if fewer requests are filed in late November through early January, it would make logical sense that the OOR would receive fewer appeals in January and February.

December 2015 – Busiest December Ever

The Office of Open Records saw record-setting levels of appeals filed throughout 2015, and December was no exception. 239 appeals were filed in December — more than were filed in any previous December.

The OOR received a total of 2,926 appeals in 2015. That’s 448 more appeals than were received in 2013, the previous record. Here’s an updated look at how many appeals have been received by the OOR each year:

  • 2015: 2,926
  • 2014: 2,016
  • 2013: 2,478
  • 2012: 2,188
  • 2011: 1,772
  • 2010: 1,228
  • 2009: 1,155

I’ve started working on the OOR’s 2015 Annual Report, which I expect to include a lot more statistics. If there’s anything specific you’d like me to try and include in the annual report, let me know. Post a comment below or on Twitter (@ErikOpenRecords or @OpenRecordsPA), or send an email to openrecords@pa.gov.

A Look Back at 2015

This blog debuted on June 25, 2015. Because I’m a total statistics geek, here’s a look at some of the site stats for 2015:

The Basics

  • 38 blog posts this year
  • 2,458 visitors this year
  • 5,437 pageviews this year

Most Popular Posts (Date Posted)

Top Months (Pageviews)

  • October (1,442)
  • November (1,208)
  • September (1,075)

Visitors’ Home Countries (Pageviews)

  • United States (5,324)
  • United Kingdom (9)
  • Russia (9)

A Few More Stats

  • Most Popular Day: Thursday (22% of pageviews)
  • Most Popular Hour: 1 p.m. (9% of pageviews)

2015 Busiest Year Ever for OOR

2015 is now officially the busiest year on record at the Office of Open Records.

With 219 appeals filed in November, the OOR has received a total of 2,687 appeals in 2015. That’s 209 more than were received in 2013, the previous record. And, of course, we still have a full month to go in 2015.

Here’s a look at how many appeals have been received by the OOR each year:

  • 2015: 2,687 (through the end of November)
  • 2014: 2,016
  • 2013: 2,478
  • 2012: 2,188
  • 2011: 1,772
  • 2010: 1,228
  • 2009: 1,155

Fewer than 10% of OOR Decisions Get Appealed

A conversation on Twitter earlier today caused me to investigate (more accurately, caused me to ask someone in the office to investigate) how many Final Determinations issued by the Office of Open Records have been appealed to court.

OOR decisions involving state agencies can be appealed to Commonwealth Court. According to our figures, that’s happened 604 times since the law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

OOR decisions involving local agencies can be appealed to the county Court of Common Pleas. Our figures indicate that’s happened 519 times.

As of today, the OOR has decided more than 13,000 appeals.

Thus, approximately 8.6 percent (1,123 out of 13,000) of the OOR’s decisions have been appealed to court.

Note: The numbers above are accurate to the best of our knowledge. Under the Right-to-Know Law, the OOR should be notified of any court appeal, but there have been instances where that hasn’t happened.

October 2015 – Another Record Month

The Office of Open Records received a record number of appeals in October, marking the third time this year a new record has been set. The top five busiest months ever, and six of the top seven, are from this year.

Here’s a look at the top 10 busiest months in the history of the OOR:

  1. Oct. 2015 — 353 appeals received
  2. Aug. 2015 — 344
  3. Sept. 2015 — 328
  4. June 2015 — 313
  5. July 2015 — 261
  6. Sept. 2013 — 244
  7. April 2015 — 241
  8. Oct. 2013 — 240
  9. Aug. 2013 — 235
  10. Aug. 2012 — 231

Through the end of October, the OOR has received 2,468 appeals in 2015. That’s just 10 appeals short of the record set in 2013, making it a certainty that 2015 will be the busiest year ever for the OOR.