CLICK TO DOWNLOAD FORM

INTRODUCTION.

The Borough of Sewickley Heights has adopted this Policy for the purpose of complying with the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law, 65 P.S. § 67.101 et seq., as amended. This Policy shall be known as the “Borough of Sewickley Heights Right-to-Know-Law Policy”.  Among other things, this Policy explains how members of the public can gain access to the Borough’s public records under the Right-to Know Law.


B.     DEFINITIONS.


For purposes of this Policy, the following words and terms shall have the meanings set forth below unless otherwise expressly stated.  Any terms or words not defined herein shall be interpreted consistent with the definitions and meanings referenced in Section 102 of the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law, 67 P.S. § 102, as amended.


Act – The Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law, 65 P.S. § 67.101 et seq., as amended.
Agency– A Commonwealth agency, a local agency, a judicial agency or a legislative agency.
Borough– The Borough of Sewickley Heights.
Borough Council – Council of the Borough of Sewickley Heights.
Borough Hall
– The offices of the Borough located at 238 Country Club Road, Sewickley, PA 15143.
Borough Manager – The Manager of the Borough of Sewickley Heights, or his or her designee.
Confidential Proprietary Information – Commercial or financial information received by the Borough which is privileged or confidential and the disclosure of which would cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person or entity that submitted the information to the Borough.
Financial Record – Includes the following: (1) any account, voucher, or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds by the Borough or the Borough’s acquisition, use, or disposal of services, supplies, materials, equipment, or property; (2) the salary or other payments or expenses paid to an officer or employee of the Borough, including the name and title of the officer or employee; or (3) a financial audit report which does not include the work papers underlying an audit.
Open Records Officer – The Borough Manager.
Policy – The Borough of Sewickley Heights Right-to-Know Law Policy.
Public Record – Any record, including a financial record, maintained by the Borough except in the following circumstances: (1) the record is exempt under Section 708 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 67.708; (2) the record is protected by the attorney-work product doctrine, the attorney-client privilege, or other privilege recognized by a court interpreting the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; or (3) the record is exempt from disclosure under any other federal or state law or regulation, or judicial order or decree.
Record – Information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that documents a transaction or activity of the Borough and that is created, received, or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business, or activity of the Borough. The term includes a document, paper, letter, map, book, tape, photograph, film, or sound recording, information stored or maintained electronically and a data-processed or image-processed document.
Record Request – A written request submitted under this Policy that seeks to access the Borough’s public records.
Requester – A person that is a legal resident of the United States and requests a record pursuant to this Act. This term also includes a Commonwealth agency, a local agency, a judicial agency or a legislative agency as those terms are defined by Section 102 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 67.102, as amended.
Response – Access to a record or the Borough’s written notice granting, denying, or partially granting and partially denying access to a record.


C.     REQUEST FOR ACCESS TO BOROUGH RECORDS.


1.     Who can request access to Borough records?
        Unless otherwise provided by law or this Policy, any person that is a legal resident of the United States may make a request for records in accordance with the Act and this Policy. The requester need not be a Pennsylvania resident. This includes media outlets.


2.     What form can a request take?
        If a requester wishes to pursue the relief and remedies provided for in the Act, the requester must document the initial request in writing. Thus, a request for access to Borough records should be in writing on such form prescribed from time to time by the Borough’s Open Records Officer. A copy of the Borough’s Right-to-Know Law form is attached to this Policy as Exhibit “A”. A request may be made in four ways: in person, by mail, by e-mail, or by fax. A request shall be addressed to the Borough’s Open Records Officer at the Borough Hall during normal business hours of 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal or governmental holidays. If the Open Records Officer is not available during normal business hours, the request should be submitted to the Borough Clerk. All Borough employees are directed to immediately forward all requests received to the Borough’s Open Records Officer.

 

3.     What information must I include in my request?

A record request addressed to the Borough’s Open Records Officer shall include:
(1) An identification or description of the records requested with sufficient specificity to enable the Borough to ascertain which records are being requested; and
(2) A name and address to which the Borough should address its response. A request does not need to include the reason(s) for the request or the requester’s intended use of the records requested.

 

4.     Is there a form for filing a request with the Borough?
Yes. A copy of the Borough’s Right-to-Know Law Request Form is attached to this Policy as Exhibit“A” and is also available on the Borough’s website and at the Borough Hall.


5.     Can I make a verbal request?
        A requester may make a verbal request. However, as mentioned above, if a requester wishes to pursue the relief and remedies provided for in the Act, the requester must document the initial request in writing.


6.     Can I make repeated requests to the Borough for the same records?
        The Borough may deny a record request if the requester has made repeated requests for that same record and the repeated requests have placed an unreasonable burden on the Borough. However, a denial by the Borough of a disruptive request shall not restrict the ability of the requester to request a different record.


7.     Where should I direct my request?
        All requests should be directed to the Borough’s Open Records Officer, and all Borough employees are directed to immediately forward all requests received to the Borough’s Open Records Officer. Submittal of a request to anyone other than the Borough’s Open Records Officer may cause a delay in the fulfillment of the request.


D.     THE BOROUGH’S OPEN RECORDS OFFICER.


1.     Who is the Borough’s Open Records Officer?
        The Borough Council has appointed the Borough Manager as the Borough’s Open Records Officer pursuant to the Act.

 

2.     What is the Borough’s Open Records Officer’s contact information?
The Borough’s Open Records Officer’s contact information is as follows:
Borough of Sewickley Heights Open Records Officer
William P. Rohe, Borough Manager
238 Country Club Road
Sewickley, PA 15143
Phone: 412-741-5119
Fax: 412-741-2215
Email: WRohe@SewickleyHeightsBoro.com


3.     What are the Borough’s Open Records Officer’s responsibilities?
        The Borough’s Open Records Officer shall receive requests submitted to the Borough under the Act, direct requests to other appropriate persons within the Borough or to appropriate persons in another agency, track the Borough’s progress in responding to requests, and issue interim and final responses under the Act.  Upon receipt of a written request for access to a Borough record, the Borough’s Open Records Officer shall do all of the following:
(1)    Note the date of receipt on the request;
(2)    Compute the day on which the five (5) business day response period under Section 901 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 67.901, will expire and make a notation of that date on the request; and
(3)    Maintain an electronic or paper copy of the request, including all documents submitted with the request until the request has been fulfilled. If the request is denied, the written request shall be maintained for thirty (30) calendar days or, if an appeal is filed, until a final determination is issued under Section 1101(b) of the Act, 65 P.S. § 67.1101(b), or the appeal
is deemed denied.


E.     PROCEDURE AFTER A REQUEST IS MADE.


1.     Can the Borough ask WHY I want or need the record(s) requested?
        No. The Borough is prohibited from asking a requester the reason for a request or the requester’s intended use of the requested records.


2.     Can the Borough ask questions about the TYPE of record(s) I requested?
        Yes. The Act requires a requester to identify the records requested with sufficient specificity that the Borough can ascertain which records are being requested. If a request is extremely vague, it can be denied on that basis. Thus, the Borough’s Open Records Officer may seek additional information about what the requester is seeking in order to identify and produce the appropriate records. The Borough will never ask, however, the reason for the request or the requester’s intended use of the requested records.

3.     I submitted a request to the Borough’s Open Records Officer, what happens next?

        Upon receipt of a request, the Borough shall make a good faith effort to determine if the record requested is a public record and whether the Borough has possession, custody, or control of the record.


4.     When must the Borough respond to my request?    
         The Borough must respond to a request within five (5) business days of the receipt of the request by the Borough’s Open Records Officer. By the end of this five (5) business day timeframe, the Borough’s Open Records Officer will issue a letter which does one (or a combination) of the following:
(1) Grants the request, and provides the records;
(2) Denies the request; or
(3) States that the Borough needs additional time to respond to a request, citing the specific reason for this need and providing a date by which a response is expected to be provided.


5.     What happens if the Borough fails to respond to my request within the five (5) business day timeframe?
        If the Borough fails to respond to a request within the five (5) business days timeframe, the request is deemed denied.


6.     Under what circumstances can the Borough take additional time to respond to a request?
        There are seven (7) specific circumstances under which the Borough may take additional time to respond to a request. These circumstances are as follows:
(1) The record in question is in storage and must be retrieved;
(2) The record requested needs to be redacted prior to its release;
(3) The Borough’s Open Records Officer has requested that the Solicitor’s Office review the request to determine if the requested record is in fact a public record;
(4) The requester has refused to pay the applicable duplication fees;
(5) The size of the request and the Borough’s staffing limitations make meeting the five (5) business day deadline impossible;
(6) The requester has failed to comply with the Borough’s Right-to-Know Law Policy; and
(7) The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the five (5) business day timeframe.

 

7.     The Borough has requested additional time to respond to my request. How long can they take?

        If the Borough cannot respond to a request within the five (5) business day timeframe, and the Borough’s Open Records Officer has sent the requester written notice that the Borough needs additional time to
respond to the request, the Borough can take up to thirty (30) additional calendar days to respond to the request.  If the Borough needs more than thirty (30) additional calendar days to respond to the request, the Borough must obtain the requester’s written consent for an extension of time. If a requester does not consent to an additional extension of time, and the Borough fails to respond to the request by the end of the thirty (30)
additional calendar day timeframe, the request shall be deemed denied. If the requester agrees to an extension of time beyond the thirty (30) additional calendar day timeframe, the request shall be deemed denied on the day following the date specified in the written consent if the Borough has not provided a response by that date.


8.     What kinds of records must the Borough provide access to?
        Generally, documents that are related to Borough business, and which are not subject to a privilege or to one of the exceptions enumerated under the Act, are subject to disclosure.  Nothing in this Policy shall provide for access to a record which is not a public record or shall be construed to require access to any Borough computer or any computer of an individual Borough
employee.


9.     What if the records requested are not Borough records?
        If the Borough’s Open Records Officer receives a request for records that are not Borough records, the Borough’s Open Records Officer shall attempt to forward the request to the appropriate person at the appropriate agency, and will so notify the requester. Under such circumstances, to insure that a request is timely received and documented, the Borough suggests that the requester make an independent request to that agency as well.


F.      BOROUGH’S RESPONSE TO A REQUEST.


1.     What happens if the Borough denies my request?
        If the Borough denies a request, whether in whole or in part, the Borough’s Open Records Officer shall send a written response to the requester at the address listed on the record request. A written response denying a record request shall include the following:
(1) A description of the record requested;
(2) The typed or printed name, title, business address, business telephone number, and signature of the Borough’s Open Records Officer on whose authority the denial was issued;(3) The date of the response; and
(4) The procedure to appeal the denial under the Act.


2.     If the Borough grants my request, will the Borough provide me with   copies of the records I requested?
        Yes. If the Borough grants a request for access, then the Borough shall, upon request by the requester, provide a copy of the record. All applicable duplication fees shall be paid, however, in full in order to receive access to the record requested.


3.     If the Borough grants my request, will the Borough provide me with certified copies of the records I requested?

        Yes. If the Borough grants a request for access, then the Borough shall, upon request by the requester, provide the requester with a certified copy of the record. All applicable duplication fees shall be paid, however, in full in order to receive access to the record requested.


4.     Can the Borough charge me for making copies of the records I requested?
        Yes. The Borough can charge a requester for making copies of responsive records, and for postage.  Furthermore, the Borough is under no obligation to release copies of responsive records until said copying charges have been paid in full.  A uniform fee schedule for local agencies has been promulgated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Office of Open Records. A copy of the current schedule is attached to this Policy as Exhibit “B”. If the rates established by the Open Records Office should ever change, the new State rates will prevail over those set forth in this Policy.  If the copying fees are estimated to be over $100.00, then the Borough may require the prepayment of copying charges before making copies of the records.


5.     If the Borough makes copies of responsive records at my request, how long do I have to pick-up the records at the Borough Hall?
        If the Borough’s response to a requester states that copies of the requested records are available for pickup at the Borough Hall and the requester fails to retrieve the records within sixty (60) calendar days of the Borough’s response, the Borough may dispose of any copies which have not been retrieved and retain any fees paid to date.


6.     What if a record contains information that is subject to access under the Act as well as information that is not subject to access under the Act?
        If the Borough determines that a record contains information that is subject to access under the Act as well as information that is not subject to access under the Act, then the Borough’s response shall grant access to the information that is subject to access, and deny access to the information that is not subject to access. If the information that is not subject to access is an integral part of the public record and cannot be separated, then the Borough shall redact from the record the information that is not subject to access and the response shall grant access to the information that is subject to access. The Borough may not deny access to the public record if the information that is not subject to access is able to be redacted.  Information that the Borough redacts shall be deemed a denial.


7.     Is the Borough obligated to create a record?
        No. When responding to a request, the Borough shall not be required to create a record which does not currently exist, or to compile, maintain, format, or organize a public record in a manner in which the Borough does not currently compile, maintain, format, or organize the record.


G.     APPEALING FROM THE DENIAL OF A REQUEST.


1.     The Borough has denied my request. Can I appeal?
        Yes. In cases where a request has been denied, denied in part, or deemed denied the requester may appeal the denial to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records or the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, as appropriate. However, in order for a requester to seek redress for a denial of a record request, the original request must have been made in writing.


2.     More than five (5) business days have passed since I made my request, and the Borough has not responded. Can I appeal?
        Yes. Under these circumstances, the request is deemed denied and the requester may appeal the denial to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records or the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, as appropriate. However, in order for a requester to seek redress for a denial of a record request, the original
request must have been made in writing.


3.     What is the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records’ contact information?
        The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records’ contact information is as follows:
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Office of Open Records
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, Plaza Level
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0225
Website: www.openrecords.state.pa.us
Email: openrecords@pa.us

 

 

4.     What must I do to appeal a denial or a deemed denial to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records or the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, as appropriate?

        To appeal a denial to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records or the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, as appropriate, a requester must file an appeal within fifteen (15) days of the denial, denial in part, or deemed denial.  An appeal to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records or the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, as appropriate, must: (1) state the grounds upon which the requester asserts that the requested record is a public record subject to release under the Act; and (2) specifically address the grounds given by the Borough for denying the request.


5.     What will happen after I file an appeal with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records?
        The Office of Open Records will assign an Appeals Officer who will be responsible for deciding the appeal. The Appeals Officer will make a final determination, which will be mailed to the requester and to the Borough, within thirty (30) days of the appeal.


6.     What will happen after I file an appeal with the Pennsylvania Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office?
        The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office will designate an Appeals Officer who will be responsible for deciding the appeal.


7.     What happens if I disagree with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records’ final determination?
        If a requester disagrees with the Office of Open Records’ final determination, the requester may file a petition for review with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of the final determination. A requester is entitled to a reasoned decision containing findings of fact and conclusions of law based upon the evidence as a whole which clearly and concisely states and explains the rationale for the decisions so that all can determine why and how a particular result was reached.
A petition for review shall stay the release of documents until a decision is issued by the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.  The Borough, the requester, and the Office of Open Records shall be served notice of any court or other actions commenced, and shall have an opportunity to respond in accordance with applicable court rules.  The record before the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County shall consist of the following:
(1) The request;
(2) The Borough’s Open Record Officer’s response(s) to the request;
(3) The requester’s appeal;
(4) The hearing transcript, if any; and(5) The final written determination of the Appeals Officer from the Office of Open Records, if applicable.


H.     MISCELLANEOUS.


1.     Disaster or Potential Damage.

        The Borough may deny a request: (1) when timely access is not possible due to fire, flood or other disaster; or (2) to historical, ancient, or rare documents, records, archives, and manuscripts when access may, in the professional judgment of the custodian of such record, cause physical damage or irreparable harm to the record. To the extent possible, the contents of a record described herein shall be made accessible to a requester even when the record is physically unavailable.


2.     Public Record Possession.

        A public record that is not in the possession of the Borough but is in the possession of a party with whom the Borough has contracted to perform a governmental function on behalf of the Borough, and which directly relates to its governmental function and is not otherwise exempt under this Act, shall be considered a public record of the Borough. Nothing in this Policy or the Act shall be construed to require access to any other record of the party in possession of the public record.


3.     Record Retention.

        Nothing in this Policy or the Act shall be construed to modify, rescind, or supersede any record retention policy or disposition schedule of the Borough established pursuant to law, regulation, policy, or other directive.


4.     Production of Non-public Records.

        If, in response to a request, the Borough inadvertently produces a record that is not a public record, the Borough shall notify any third party that provided the record to the Borough of the person that is the subject of the record and the requester.


5.     Requests for Trade Secrets.

        Prior to the Borough’s disclosure of a record, the Borough shall notify a third party of a request for a record if the third party provided the record and included a written statement signed by a representative of the third party that the record contains a trade secret or confidential proprietary information.  Notification shall be provided within five (5) business days of receipt of the request for the record. The third party shall have five (5) business days from receipt of notification from the Borough to provide input on the release of the record. The Borough shall deny the request or release the record within ten (10) business days of the provision of notice to the third party and shall notify the third party of the decision.


6.     Transcripts.
        Prior to an adjudication becoming final, binding, and nonappealable, a transcript of an administrative proceeding before the Borough Council shall be provided to a requester by the Borough stenographer or a court reporter, in accordance with the Borough’s procedure or an applicable contract. Production of such transcripts are subject to the duplication fees established on Exhibit “B” of this Policy.


7.     Audio/Video Tapes and Meeting Minutes.

        Tape recordings (in audio or video format) may be made of public meetings of the Borough Council and/or other Borough agencies and commissions. Video and audio tape recordings of such meetings shall be provided in accordance with the Act.  Audio tape recordings and meeting minutes shall be available for public review in accordance with the Act. The tape recordings may be reviewed by members of the public at Borough Hall during the regular business hours, as long as the method of review does not interfere with the operation of the Borough Office. Tape recordings of public meetings shall not leave the Borough Hall.  Audio tape recordings of public meetings may be erased, recycled, and/or destroyed by the Borough after
sixty (60) days have elapsed from the subject public meeting.


8.     Posting Requirements.

        The following information shall be posted on the Borough’s website and at the Borough Hall:
(1) Contact information for the Borough’s Open Records Officer;
(2) Contact information for the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records;
(3) The Borough’s Right-to-Know Law Request From; and
(4) This Policy.


9.     Waiver of Fees.

        The Borough may waive the fees for duplication of a record, including, but not limited to, when: (1) the requester duplicates the public record; or (2) the Borough deems it is in the public interest to do so.


10.    Other Fees/Limitations.

        Except as otherwise provided by statute, no fees other than those listed in Exhibit “B” may be imposed upon the requester unless the Borough necessarily incurs costs for complying with the request, and such fees shall be reasonable. However, the Borough recognizes it shall not impose a fee for its review of a record to determine whether the record is a public record subject to access under the Act.


11.    Prepayment of Fees.

        Prior to granting a request for access in accordance with the Act, a requester shall prepay an estimate of the fees authorized under this section if the fees required to fulfill the request are expected to exceed $100. In no event shall any public records or reports be released until the requester first pays the Borough all fees due and payable.


12.    Amendments to Policy.

        The Borough Council may amend this Policy by resolution, adopted from time to time.