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Tignall-Dallastown Area School District open records case

Tignall-Dallastown Area School District open records case

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Published by scott blanchard
Office of Open Records decision denying an appeal of an open records request that was turned down by Dallastown school district; and documents for the requester's appeal to county court.
Office of Open Records decision denying an appeal of an open records request that was turned down by Dallastown school district; and documents for the requester's appeal to county court.

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Published by: scott blanchard on Aug 17, 2011
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08/17/2011

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pennsylvania
OFFICEOFOPENRECORDS
FINALDETERMINATIONINTHEMATTEROFCAROLLTIGNALL,Complainant
v.
DocketNo.AP2010-0869DALLASTOWNAREASCHOOLDISTRICT,RespondentINTRODUCTION
CarrollTignall(the"Requester")submittedarequesttoDallastownAreaSchoolDistrict(the"District")pursuanttotheRight-to-KnowLaw,65P.S.§§67.101
etseq.,
("RTKL")seekingpurchaseorders/invoicesforvotercards,namesofmeetingattendeesande-mailsrelatedtotheNovembermunicipalelection.TheDistrictprovidedanattestationofnon-existenceforthepurchaseorderandattendees,andclaimedthee-mailsrequestedarenot"recordsof'theDistrict.TheRequestertimelyappealedtotheOfficeofOpenRecords("OOR").ForthereasonssetforthinthisFinalDetermination,theappealis
denied
andtheDistrictisnotrequiredtotakefurtheraction.
FACTUALBACKGROUND
OnAugust26,2010,theRequestersubmittedaright-to-knowrequestfor(1)copiesofthepurchaseorder,invoice,paymentauthorizationandpaymenttransactionforthecostofprintingthevoterremindercardsdistributedbytheDistrictinadvanceoftheMay19,2010primaryelection;(2)namesofallindividualsthatattendedthemay2009ParentAdvisoryGroupmeeting;(3)alle-mailssentorreceivedbytheindividualslistedbelowbetweenOctober1,2009andNovember4,2009thatreferenceanytopicrelatedtotheNovemberMunicipalElection:
i.e.,
PayAthletics,PaytoPlay,PaySports,ExtracurricularFees,SchoolBoardElection,SchoolDirectorElection,GeneralElection,MunicipalElection,NovemberElection,SchoolBoardCandidates,SchoolDirectorCandidates,etc.("E-mails")(electronically)
 
followedby21names(the"Request").LisaKirby,OpenRecordsOfficer(ORO),timelyrespondedstatingthatwithrespecttoParts1and2,noresponsiverecordsexist,anddeniedE-mailssoughtinPart3becausetheyarenotrecordsoftheDistrictanddonotdocumentatransactionoractivity(the"Response").
In
supportofnon-existence,theOROsubmittedanotarizedattestation("Attestation").Oftheindividualslisted,theDistrictnotesthattheyarenotboardmembersanddonothaveauthoritytoconductofficialDistrictbusiness,andthatthesubject-matterofthee-mailsdoesnotinvolveDistrictbusiness.TheRequestertimelyappealedarguingthattherecordsclaimedtobenon-existentshouldexist,theinformationsoughtshouldbeseparatelyprovided,ande-mailsarepublicrecord,andincludeasasenderrecipienttheAthleticDirector,whoconductsDistrictbusiness("Appeal").TheDistrictsupplementedtherecordwithaletterarguingitspositionandanadditionalaffidavitsupportingthefactssetforthintheResponse("Affidavit").Withregardtonon-existence,theOROexplainsthattherecordsdonotexistinanyformandnotesthatthereisnoobligationtocreateresponsiverecordsorrespondtoquestionsinlieuofprovidingarecord.TheDistrictexplainsthattheParentAdvisoryGroup(PAG)iscomprisedofvolunteerswhomeetperiodicallyinatown-meetingstyletodiscussconcernsandtoallowtheSuperintendenttoanswerquestions.TheDistrictclarifiesthatthePAGhasnoauthoritytoconductbusinessfortheDistrictandnobusinessoccursatthemeetings,andnoformalattendanceistaken.WithregardtoE-mails,theDistrictatteststhattheindividualslistedareorwereDistrictemployeesorcoaches,allofthemwereorareissuede-mailaddressesandwereorarecoachesfortheDistrict,otherthanHarvey,whoistheAthleticDirector.TheDistrictalsoatteststhatitdoesnotconductmunicipalelectionsanddoesnothavea"paytoplay"athleticprogram.TheDistrictarguesthat
InreSilberstein(MacNealv.YorkTownship),
No.2009-SU-004714-08(YorkCCP2
 
April5,2010)(onappeal),iscontrollingbecausetheDistrictislocatedinYorkCounty.TheDistrictassertsthatthee-mailsarenot"records"asdefmedundertheRTKLbecausetheydonotdocumentatransaction,businessoractivityoftheDistrict.TheDistrictdistinguishes
Dixonv.Mt.LebanonSchoolDistrict,
OORDkt.AP2010-0446,becausethee-mailsatissueinthatcasepertainedtobusinessofthedistrictandwereamongthestaffandgoverningbody.Bycontrast,here,thee-mailsarenotofsubjectswithinthebusinessofthedistrict,oramonggoverningrepresentativesanddonotdocumentDistrictactivities.Further,theDistrictexplainsthatsincetheDistrictdoesnothavepayathleticprograms,andthesenders/recipientslackauthoritytomakepolicy,anydiscussionofthosetopicscouldnotbeconsidered"deliberation."
LEGALANALYSIS
TheRTKLis"designedtopromoteaccesstoofficialgovernmentinformationinordertoprohibitsecrets,scrutinizetheactionsofpublicofficialsandmakepublicofficialsaccountablefortheiractions."
Bowlingv.OOR,
990A.2d813,824(Pa.Commw.2010).TheOORisauthorizedtohearappealsforallCommonwealthandlocalagencies.
See
65P.S.§67.503(a).Anappealsofficerisrequired"toreviewallinformationfiledrelatingtotherequest."65P.S.§67.1102(a)(2).Anappealsofficermayconductahearingtoresolveanappeal.Thedecisiontoholdahearingornotholdahearingisdiscretionaryandnon-appealable.
Id.
Thelawalsostatesthatanappealsofficermayadmitintoevidencetestimony,evidenceanddocumentsthattheappealsofficerbelievestobereasonablyprobativeandrelevanttoanissueindispute.
Id.
Here,neitherpartyrequestedahearingandtheOORhastherequisiteandnecessaryinformationandevidence,throughsworn,writtentestimony,toproperlyadjudicatethematter.TheDistrictisalocalagencysubjecttotheRTKLandrequiredtodisclosepublicrecords.
See
65P.S.§67.302.RecordsinpossessionofalocalagencyarepresumedpublicunlessexemptundertheRTKLorotherlaworprotectedbyaprivilege,judicialorderordecree.
See
65P.S.
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