The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled yesterday that records of a private entity acting on behalf of a public agency may be subject to the state’s open records laws.
In its ruling, the court interpreted a provision of the Right-to-Know Law under which some records of a party that has a contract with a government agency to perform a “governmental function” become public. Scranton Times Tribune reporter Gretchen Wintermantel filed an open records request with the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority seeking contract bids for concessions stands at PNC Field stadium.
The reporter was concerned when SWB Yankees, LLC, which is owned by the New York Yankees, solicited bids from concessions vendors but ending up entering a contract with another company also owned by the New York Yankees. SWB Yankees, a private minor league baseball operation company, manages the stadium and pays the authority an annual fee for using the stadium.
The Authority denied the request, arguing that SWB Yankees was not “contracted to perform a governmental function on behalf of the agency,” and therefore the information was not a public record of the Authority.
In determining whether the records could be subject to the law, the court adopted a so-called “non-ancillary test,” under which it considered whether the contractor was performing one of the “essential governmental functions” of the Authority on its behalf.