Authority improperly invokes loophole to delay release
of information until after the election
(ERIE, PA)--The Erie County Redevelopment Authority has decided not to honor a request for information about its contracts with Janet Anderson. Keystone Progress, a statewide citizens organization, requested information from the Redevelopment Authority, and its related entities, about contracts and financial records involving Janet Anderson under Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law (RTKL) (65 §§67.101 et seq.) on October 10.
The Authority chose not to honor that request, improperly citing a loophole that allows for a 30-day extension if there are legal questions concerning the RTKL request.
According to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, "The most significant change to the Right-To-Know Law is that all records are presumed to be public records unless disclosure is barred by: 1) state or federal law or regulation, or judicial order; or 2), privilege, e.g., attorney-client, doctor-patient, or 3) one of the exceptions in Section 708 of the Right-to-Know Law.
"The burden is now 100 percent on the Agency to establish why the record is not available."[i]
The assumption should be that the record is public, unless it is covered by one of the enumerated exceptions described below.[ii] The Keystone Progress request is clearly within the parameters of the RTKL.
"This improper use of the 30-day extension loophole is clearly an attempt to delay releasing this information until after the election, said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. "It raises serious questions about what the Authority is hiding about its financial arrangements with Janet Anderson."
Keystone Progress believes that the Redevelopment Authority has not responded in good faith to its legal request for public information, so it will be appealing the Authority's decision to the PA Office of Public Records to force the Redevelopment Authority to comply with the law.
Included below are the response from the Redevelopment Authority and the original RTKL request letter. Both redacted to exclude email addresses.
October 16, 2012
Michael Morrill, Executive Director
1500 N. 2nd St., Ste. 11
Harrisburg, PA 17102
Dear Mr. Morrill,
We are in receipt of your request dated October 10, 2012.
We have reviewed your request and are invoking a thirty day extension for legal review and due to the complex nature of your request.
Richard M. Novotny
Erie County Redevelopment Authority
1524 Enterprise Road
Corry, PA 16407
Fax - 814-664-3885
October 10, 2012
Right to Know Officer
Corry Area Industrial Development Corporation
1524 Enterprise Road
Corry, Pennsylvania 16407
VIA FAX AND EMAIL
Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law (65 §§67.101 et seq.), we hereby request access to and a copy of the following records and information for the dates January 1, 2012 through October 10, 2012:
• All correspondence, including surface mail and email, between a) Janet Anderson and b) the Corry Area Industrial Development Corporation or any of the following entities:
The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Corry
Corry Industrial Benefit Association
Corry Community Development Corporation
• All contracts, agreements, and financial records, containing the words "Janet Anderson."
Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
You may reach me at ___ or ____ if there are any questions or if you need further information.