Newish Pa. FOI law no panacea…

A Pennsylvania state appeals court ruled Thursday that incident reports filed by state police officers are not public records, citing an exemption in the state’s Right to Know Law that protects from public disclosure “a record of an agency relating to or resulting in a criminal investigation.”

The court’s 6-1 ruling reversed an earlier decision by the state Office of Open Records that such documents should be made public.

In February of 2009, the Potter Leader-Enterprise of Coudersport, Pa., submitted an open records request seeking an incident report involving an altercation at a private residence. The state police initially denied the request.

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3 Responses

  1. Charles, the headline on your blog post is probably an understatement.

    The head of Pennsylvania’s right-to-know office talks about the obstacles to public access & her office’s plans here: http://www.yorkblog.com/record/2010/05/pa-open-records-office-eyes-more-training-for-agency-lawyers.html

    As an example of how Pennsylvania public officials still look for reasons to decrease public access instead of increasing it, here’s how York County, Pa. is fighting the release of 911 time-response logs: http://www.yorkblog.com/record/2009/10/key-arguments-in-time-response-log-case.html

    But there are some successes: an appeals court decision that says an agency has to look for releasable information even if it is broadly denying a request (http://www.yorkblog.com/record/2010/02/pa-appeals-court-decision-boosts-new-rtk-law.html) and a municipality that came down on the side of public access: (http://www.yorkblog.com/record/2010/05/score-one-for-public-access-in-lower-windsor-twp.html).

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