Presentation to State Association of Boroughs

Earlier today, I took part in the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs’ annual conference in Hershey.

It was a great discussion, and I very much appreciate the invitation. Here’s the presentation I used:

Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs – June 11, 2018 – PDF
Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs – June 11, 2018 – PPTX


Federal Court Says Public Officials Can’t Block Twitter Users

A federal court today ruled that President Donald J. Trump cannot block people from following his @realDonaldTrump account on Twitter.

The impact of the ruling, however, is not limited to the president.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote, “This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States. The answer to both questions is no.”

The full decision can be read here: Knight Institute vs. Trump

Presentation to CCAP Solicitors’ Conference

Earlier today, I took part in a discussion about the Right-to-Know Law at the 2018 CCAP Solicitors’ Conference in Harrisburg.

Other participants included attorneys Craig J. Staudenmaier and J. Stephen Feinour from Nauman Smith. The panel was moderated by J. Chadwick Schnee, Berks County’s First Assistant Solicitor.

It was a great discussion, and I very much appreciate the invitation.

The discussion covered a fairly wide variety of topics, but the presentation I prepared focused on the Office of Open Records’ survey of Agency Open Records Officers (AOROs) and the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee’s separate survey of AOROs:

CCAP Solicitors’ Conference – May 4, 2018 – PPTX
CCAP Solicitors’ Conference – May 4, 2018 – PDF

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.