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Right To Know

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (RTKL), 65 P. S. §§ 67.101-67.3104, provides citizens the right of access to public records, and sets forth the conditions under which a document maintained by a Commonwealth agency is deemed a public record. It also imposes time limits within which an agency must respond to requests for public records, and provides a process whereby the requester may file an appeal when a request for information is denied in whole or part.

Requests for addresses of public employees remains under an injunction from release

A record is exempt from being disclosed under a judicial order or decree, it is not a public record and even if it is in agency possession, it is not presumed to be a public record.  65 P.S. §§67.102, 67.305.

Memorandum and Order 12/05/2013

Friedman, Rochelle S.

AND NOW, this 5th day of December, 2013, having considered the application of the Intervenors , Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees, Urenus V. Kirkwood, John B. Nye, Stephen M. Vak, and Richard Rowland, and the cross application of the Office of Open Records and Terry Mutchler, to vacate this court’s July 28, 2009, injunction and the responses thereto, and having heard argument on the matter , we order that this court’s July 28, 2009, injunction shall remain in effect until further order of this court . Additionally, the Office of Open Records’ motion to strike Petitioner’s pre-hearing memorandum is denied.

 Judge Friedman Injunction Order entered in 2009:

 AND NOW, this 28th day of July, 2009, Petitioner’s request for a preliminary injunction is granted.

1. The release of the home addresses of all public school employees is hereby stayed until further order of this court.

2. The Office of Open Records is enjoined from directing the release of the home addresses of public school employees pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law until further order of this court.

3. The Office of Open Records is directed to take all reasonable steps necessary to notify public school districts of the Commonwealth of the existence of this litigation and that the release of employee home addresses is stayed until further order of this court.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association, et al v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, et al., Docket No. 396 M.D. 2009. 

Requests for Taxpayer Real Estate Tax Information

Signature Information Solutions (real estate closing company) has devised a means of avoiding paying tax collector’s certification fees for tax payer real estate tax information. Signature avoids making the payment by utilizing the Right to Know Law (RTKL) to request the same information that had been previously provided by the tax collector for a fee.

Although it is the law in Pennsylvania that tax collectors are not subject to the RTKL, the Office of Open Records (OOR) has held that requests for tax related information can be made instead to the municipal governments and school districts.

Municipal entities have denied access to Signature’s request asserting a number of defenses, including (1) that the municipal entity does not have legal custody of the reocrds-that only the tax collector does, (2) such records do not exist and would need to be created, and (3) requiring a municipal entity to obtain these records from the tax collector requires the entity to underwrite the cost of making the records available to commercial businesses such as Signature.

The OOR has consistently rejected these arguments. The OOR has held that the records of a tax collector to perform collection functions on behalf of a taxing district are records “of” the taxing district, such that the taxing district remains responsible for its records, despite their legal custody residing in a third party (the tax collector).

A number of the decisions issued by the OOR are on appeal to the Commonwealth Court. Until the courts provide guidance on this issue the request for taxpayer real estate information is more than likely subject to disclosure. Municipal entities should consult with their solicitors upon receipt of a request from Signature or other real estate closing company.

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