A recent decision by the Office of Open Records (OOR) is useful for its explanation of several basic aspects of the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). See Fowler v. City of Scranton, OOR, Docket No. AP 2018-1830 (Oct. 29, 2018).

Issue Addressed: This matter involved a request for the City of Scranton to provide records about judgments by the City entered against any of its active or retired employees.

Noteworthiness of Decision: Several procedural and substantive points made by the OOR in this short ruling are useful reminders of key aspects of the RTKL, for which the decision includes citations to the statute and case law. For example:

  • The City exercised its right to a 30-day extension to reply substantively to the request;
  • When the City missed that 30-day deadline, the request was deemed denied;
  • Upon a timely appeal to the OOR, the City did not provide a response;
  • The OOR gave both parties an opportunity to make supplemental submissions;
  • The City still failed to reply;
  • A decision was entered in favor of the requester, and the OOR observed in footnote 1 that the statute allows a court to assess attorneys fees, costs and a penalty if a court finds that the request was denied in bad faith.
  • The decision explains the deadline and procedure to file an appeal of the OOR decision to the Court of Common Pleas;
  • The decision notes that the OOR is a “quasi-judicial agency” and should not be made a party to the appeal.
  • Citations to the statutory provisions for the above key points are provided in the decision.