Procedure: Access of Public Records "Right to Know"

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit Board of Directors, herein referred to as the Board, requires the Administration of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) to make the public records of this Intermediate Unit available for inspection and copies thereof in accordance with law, Board policy, and administrative regulation, with the exception of those records exempted from such inspection and copying by law and the rules of the Board.

Definitions

  • Financial Record: Any account, voucher, or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds or acquisitions, use or disposal of services, supplies, materials, equipment or property; or the salary or other payments or expenses paid to an officer or employee, including the individual's name and title; and a financial audit report, excluding the audit's underlying work papers.
  • Publc Record: A record, including a financial record, which is not protected by a defined privilege or is not exempt from being disclosed under one of the exemptions in Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law, or under other federal or state law or regulations, or judicial decree or order.
  • Record: Information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that documents a district transaction or activity and is created, received, or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a district transaction, business, or activity, including: 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.
  • Response: The AIU's notice informing a requester of a granting of access to a record or the AIU's written notice to a requester granting, denying, or partially granting and partially denying access to a requested record.
  • Requester: A legal resident of the United States, or an agency, who requests a record.

Notification

The AIU shall post at the Waterfront Office and on the AIU's website the following information:

  1. Contact information for the Open Records Officer.
  2. Contact information for the state's Office of Open Records or other applicable appeals officer.
  3. The form to be used to file a request, with a notation that the state Office of Open Records form may also be used if the AIU decides to create it own form.
  4. This Board policy governing requests for access to the AIU's public records.
  5. All written requests for access to public records received by the AIU.

Guidelines

A request to examine or make extracts or copies of public records of this AIU shall be presented to the AIU's Open Records Officer. Such a request shall be made in writing and shall be presented during the regular business hours of 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on the regular business days, Monday through Friday. A written request shall identify or describe the records to be sought with sufficient specificity to enable the AIU to ascertain which records are being requested, and shall include the name and address of the requester to whom the AIU should respond. A requester's right of access does not include the right to remove a record from the control or supervision of the Open Records Officer. The AIU shall not limit the number of records requested.

Public records shall be made available for examination and/or copying in the form maintained by the AIU. It is not the responsibility of AIU personnel to compile statistics or lists of specific information, sort out particular matters, prepare documents in a new or different form, or perform other acts of a selective and affirmative nature. Such compilation, asembly, preparation, etc. must be done by the requesting citizen, after making an appointment for such purpose. If the record is only maintained electronically or in other non-paper media, the AIU shall, upon request, duplicate the public record on paper when responding to a request for access but shall charge the requester a page duplication fee as provided in this Procedure.

Information shall be made available to individuals with disabilities in an appropriate format, upon request and with sufficient advance notice.

Request for Access

A written request for access to a public record shall be submitted on the required form(s) and addressed to the Open Records Officer. Written requests may be submitted to the AIU in person, by mail, to a designated facsimile machine, or to a designated email address. Anonymous or verbal requests for access to public records will not be accepted. Each request must include the following information.

  1. Identification or description of the requested record, in sufficient detail.
  2. Medium in which the record is requested.
  3. Name and address of the individual to receive the AIU's response.

The AIU shall not require an explanation of the reason for the request or the intended use of the requested record, unless otherwise required by law.

Response to Request

AIU employees shall be directed to forward requests for access to public records to the Open Records Officer. Upon receipt of a written request for access to a record, the Open Records Officer shall determine if the requested record is a public record and if the AIU has possession, custody, or control of that record.

The Open Records Officer shall respond as promptly as possible under the existing circumstances, and the initial response time shall not exceed five (5) business days from the date the written request is received by the Open Records Officer. The Open Records Officer will forward copies of the AIU's written responses to records requests to the Executive Director.

The initial response shall grant access to the requested record, deny access to the requested record, partially grant and partially deny access to the requested record, or notify the requester of the need for an extension of time to fully respond.

If the AIU fails to respond to a request within five (5) business days of receipt, the request for acces shall be deemed denied.

Extension of Time

If the Open Records Officer determines that an extension of time is required to respond to a request, in accordance with the factors stated in law, written notice shall be sent within five (5) business days of receipt of request. The notice shall indicate that the request for access is being reviewed, the reason that the review requires an extension, a reasonable date when the response is expected, and an estimate of applicable fees owed when the record becomes available.

Upon receipt of a written request for access, the Open Records Officer will determine if any one of the following applies:

  1. Redaction: The request for access requires redaction of a record.
  2. Retrieval Time/Remote Storage: The request for access requires retrieval of a record stored in a remote location.
  3. Staffing Limitations: A timely response to the request for access cannot be accomplished due to bona fide and specified staffing limitations.
  4. Legal Review: A legal review is necessary to determine whether the requested record is a public record submit to access.
  5. Lack of Policy Compliance: The requester has not complied with the Board policy governing access to public records.
  6. Failure to Pay Fees: The requester refuses to pay applicable established fees.
  7. Nature of Request: The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period.

If the Open Records Officer determines that an extension of time is required to respond to a records request, the requester will be notified in writing, in accordance with law and Board policy. Up to a thirty (30) day extension for one of the listed reasons does not require the consent of the requester. If the response is not given by the specified date, it shall be deemed denied on the day following that date. A requester may consent in writing to an extension that exceeds thirty (30) days, in which case the request shall be deemed denied on the day following the date specified in the notice if the Open Records Officer has not provided a response by that date.

Granting of Request

If the Open Records Officer determines that the request will be granted, the response shall inform the requester that access is granted and either include information on the regular business hours of the administration office, provide electronic access, or state where the requester may go to inspect the records or information electronically at a publicly accessible site. The response shall include a copy of the fee schedule in effect, a statement that prepayment of fees is required in a specified amount if access to the records will cost in excess of one hundred dollars ($100.00), and the medium in which the records will be provided.

A public record shall be provided to the requester in the medium requested if it exists in that form; otherwise, it shall be provided in its existing medium. However, the AIU is not required to permit use of its computers.

The Open Records Officer may respond to a records request by notifying the requester that the record is available through publicly accessible electronic means or that the AIU shall provide access to inspect the record electronically. If the requester, within thirty (30) days following receipt of the AIU’s notice, submits a written request to have the record converted to paper, the AIU shall provide access in printed form within five (5) days of receipt of the request for conversion to paper.

If the Open Records Officer responds to a requester that a copy of the requested record is available for delivery at the administration office and the requester does not retrieve the record within sixty (60) days of the AIU’s response, the AIU shall dispose of the copy and retain any fees paid to date.

A public record that the AIU does not possess but is possessed by a third party with whom the AIU has contracted to perform a governmental function and which directly relates to that governmental function shall be considered a public record of the AIU. When the AIU contracts with such a third party, the AIU shall require the contractor to agree in writing to comply with requests for such records and to provide the AIU with the requested record in a timely manner to allow the AIU to comply with law. If the third party that possessed the requested public record duplicated the record in response to the request, the Open Records Officer will remit the fee to the third party. The third party is not required to provide access to any other of its records.

Transcripts of Administrative Proceedings

Prior to an adjudication becoming final, binding, and non-appealable, a transcript of an administrative proceeding will be provided to a requester by the proceeding’s stenographer. To request access to a pre-final adjudication transcript possessed by a stenographer that is subject to disclosure, the requester must directly contact the stenographer and pay the fees assessed by the stenographer. After an adjudication becomes final, binding, and non-appealable, a transcript of an administrative proceeding will be provided to a requester and the established duplication fee will be charged.

Redaction

If the AIU determines that a record contains information which is subject to access as well as information which is not subject to access, the AIU will grant access only to the information which is subject to access and shall redact from the public record the information which is not subject to access. The AIU will not deny access to a public record if the information which is not subject to access is able to be redacted.

Certified Copies

If the Open Records Officer grants a request for access to a record and the requester requests a certified copy of the record for the purpose of legally verifying the public record, the Open Records Officer will provide a certified copy upon payment of the applicable established fees by the requester.

Notification to Third Parties

When the AIU produces a record that is not a public record in response to a request, the Open Records Officer shall notify any third party that provided the record to the AIU, the person that is the subject of the record, and the requester. The Open Records Officer shall notify a third party of a record request if the requested record contains a trade secret or confidential proprietary information, in accordance with law.

Trade Secrets/Confidential Proprietary Information

Trade secret is defined as information, including a formula; drawing; pattern; compilation such as a customer list; program; device; method; technique; or process that derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use and is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. The term includes data processing software obtained by the AIU under a licensing agreement prohibiting disclosure. 

Confidential proprietary information is defined as commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential and the disclosure of which would cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the individual that submitted the information.

When a third party provides a record to the AIU and includes a written statement signed by its representative that the record contains a trade secret or confidential proprietary information, the Open Records Officer will notify that third party of a request for access to that record within five (5) business days of receipt of the request. The third party will have five (5) business days from receipt of the Open Records Officer’s notice to provide input on the release of the requested record. The Open Records Officer will provide access to the record or will deny the request for access within ten (10) business days of providing notice to the third party and will notify the third party of the Open Records Officer’s decision.

Denial of Request

If the Open Records Officer denies a request for access to a record, whether in whole or in part, a written response shall be sent within five (5) business days of receipt of the request. The response denying the request shall include the following:

  1. Description of the record requested.
  2. Specific reasons for denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority.
  3. Name, title, business address, business telephone number, and signature of the Open Records Officer on whose authority the denial is issued.
  4. Date of the response.
  5. Procedure for the requester to appeal a denial of access.

The Open Records Officer may deny a request for access to a record if the requester has made repeated requests for that same record and the repeated requests have placed an unreasonable burden on the AIU. The Open Records Officer may deny a request for access to a record when timely access is not possible due to a disaster, or when access may cause physical damage or irreparable harm to the record. To the extent possible, a record’s contents shall be made accessible even when the record is physically unavailable. Information that is not subject to access and is redacted from a public record shall be deemed a denial.

If a written request for access to a record is denied or deemed denied, the requester may file an appeal with the state’s Office of Open Records within fifteen (15) business days of the mailing date of the Open Records Officer’s response or deemed denial.

Computer Access

The Open Records Officer will not grant requests for access to the AIU’s or its employees’ computers.

Records Exempted by Law Include But May Not Be Limited To

To determine if a requested record is exempt from access, the Open Records Officer will consider and apply each exemption separately. The following records are exempt from public access by a requester in accordance with the Right-To-Know Law:
  1. Loss of Funds/Physical Harm/Personal Security:  When the disclosure of a record would result in the AIU’s loss of federal or state funds or would reasonably be likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to or personal security of an individual.
  2. Public Safety:  When the disclosure of a record maintained in connection with the military, homeland security, national defense, law enforcement or other public safety activity would reasonably be likely to jeopardize or threaten public safety or public protection activity, or a record that is designated classified by an appropriate federal or state military authority.
  3. Safety/Security of Facilities:  When the disclosure of a record creates a reasonable likelihood of endangering the safety or physical security of a building, public utility, resource, infrastructure, facility, or information storage system, which may include:
    • Documents or data relating to computer hardware; source files; software; and system networks that could jeopardize computer security by exposing a vulnerability in preventing, protecting against, mitigating, or responding to a terrorist act.
    • Lists of infrastructure, resources, and significant special events, including those defined by the federal government in the National Infrastructures Protections,  that are deemed critical due to their nature and result from risk analysis; threat assessments; consequences assessments; antiterrorism protective measures and plans; counterterrorism measures and plans; and security needs assessments.
    • Building plans or infrastructure records that expose or create vulnerability through disclosure of the location, configuration or security of critical systems including public utility systems; structural elements; technology; communication; electrical; fire suppression; ventilation; water; wastewater; sewage; and gas systems.
  4. Computer Systems: When the disclosure of a record regarding computer hardware, software, and networks, including administrative and technical records, would reasonably be likely to jeopardize computer security.
  5. Medical Information:  When the disclosure of a record of an individual’s medical, psychiatric or psychological history, or disability status, including an evaluation; consultation; prescription; diagnosis or treatment; results of tests, to include drug tests; enrollment in a health care program or program designed for articipation by persons with disabilities, including vocational rehabilitation; workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation; or related information would disclose individually identifiable health information.
  6. Personal Identification Information:  Disclosure of the following personal identification information:
    • A record containing all or part of an individual’s Social Security number; driver’s license; driver’s license number; personal financial information; home, cellular, or personal telephone numbers; personal email addresses; employee number or other confidential personal identification number.
    • A spouse’s name, marital status, beneficiary, or dependent information. The home address of a law enforcement officer or judge.
      Personal information that must be disclosed includes the name; position; salary; actual compensation or other payments or expenses; employment contract; employment-related contract or agreement; and length of service of a public official or AIU employee.
      The Open Records Officer may redact from a record the name or other identifying information relating to an individual performing an undercover or covert law enforcement activity.
  7. Certain Employee Information:  Disclosure of the following records relating to an AIU employee:
    • A letter of reference or recommendation pertaining to the character or qualifications of an identifiable individual, unless it was prepared in relation to the appointment of an individual to fill a vacancy in an elected office or an appointed office requiring Senate confirmation.
    • A performance rating or review.
    • The result of a civil service or similar test administered by a Commonwealth agency, legislative agency, or judicial agency. The result of a civil service or similar test administered by a local agency shall not be disclosed if restricted by a collective bargaining agreement. Only test scores of individuals who obtained a passing score on a test administered by a local agency may be disclosed.
    • The employment application of an individual who is not hired by the AIU.
    • Workplace support services information.
    • Written criticisms of an AIU employee.
    • Grievance material, including documents related to discrimination or sexual harassment.
    • Information regarding discipline, demotion, or discharge contained in a personnel file, except information that applies to the AIU’s final action that results in demotion or discharge.
    • An academic transcript.
  8. Labor Relations/Negotiations/Arbitration:  Disclosure of a record pertaining to strategy or negotiations relating to labor relations or collective bargaining and related arbitration proceedings. In the case of the arbitration of a dispute or grievance under a collective bargaining agreement, disclosure of an exhibit entered into evidence at an arbitration proceeding or a transcript of the arbitration or the opinion. This exemption does not apply to a final or executed contract or agreement between the parties in a collective bargaining agreement, or to the final award or order of the arbitrator in a dispute or grievance procedure.
  9. Pre-decisional Drafts:  Disclosure of the draft of a bill, resolution, regulation, statement of policy, management directive, or ordinance, or their amendments, prepared by or for the AIU.
  10. Pre-decisional Deliberations:  Disclosure of a record that reflects:
    • The internal, pre-decisional deliberations of the AIU, its Board members, employees or officials, or pre-decisional deliberations between AIU Board members, employees or officials and members, employees or officials of another agency, including pre-decisional deliberations relating to a budget recommendation; legislative proposal; legislative amendment; contemplated or proposed policy or course of action; or any research, memos, or other documents used in the pre-decisional deliberations, subject to law governing open meetings. Public records do include a record of any of the above that is not exempt from access by law and which is presented to a quorum for deliberation in accordance with law governing open meetings; a written or Internet application or document that has been submitted to request Commonwealth funds; and the results of public opinion surveys, polls, focus groups, marketing research, or similar efforts designed to measure public opinion.
    • The strategy to be used to develop or achieve the successful adoption of a budget, legislative proposal, or regulation.
  11. Trade Secret/Confidential Proprietary Information:  Disclosure of a record that constitutes or reveals a trade secret or confidential proprietary information.
  12. Personal Notes/Working Papers:  Disclosure of notes and working papers prepared by or for an AIU public official or employee used solely for that official’s or employee’s own personal use, including telephone message slips; routing slips; and other materials that do not have an official purpose.
  13. Donor Identity:  Disclosure of records that would disclose the identity of an individual who lawfully makes a donation to the AIU, unless the donation is intended for or restricted to providing remuneration or personal tangible benefit to an AIU public official or employee, including lists of potential donors compiled by the AIU to pursue donations; donor profile information; or personal identifying information relating to a donor.
  14. Unpublished Academic Works:  Disclosure of unpublished lecture notes, unpublished manuscripts, unpublished articles, creative works in progress, research-related material, and scholarly correspondence of a community college or an institution of the State System of Higher Education or one of their faculty members, employees, guest speakers, or students.
  15. Academic Records:  Disclosure of academic transcripts, examinations, examination questions, scoring keys and answers to examinations, including licensing and other examinations relating to the qualifications of an individual; examinations given in AIU or AIU member district buildings, and examinations given in institutions of higher education.
  16. Criminal Investigations:  Disclosure of a record of the AIU or an agency relating to or resulting in a criminal investigation, including:
    • Complaints of potential criminal conduct other than a private criminal complaint.
    • Investigative materials, notes, correspondence, videos, and reports.
    • A record that includes the identity of a confidential source or of a suspect who has not been charged with an offense to whom confidentiality has been promised.
    • A record that includes information made confidential by law or court order.
    • Victim information, including any information that would jeopardize the safety of a victim.
    • A record that if disclosed would reveal the institution, progress or result of a criminal investigation, except the filing of criminal charges; deprive an individual of the right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication; impair the ability to locate a defendant or codefendant; hinder an agency’s ability to secure an arrest, prosecution, or conviction; or endanger the life or physical safety of an individual. This exemption does not apply to information contained in a police blotter as defined in law and utilized or maintained by the State Police, local, campus, transit or port authority police department or other law enforcement agency, or in a traffic report except as provided by law.
  17. Non-criminal Investigations:  Disclosure of an AIU record relating to a non-criminal investigation, including:
    • Complaints submitted to the AIU.
    • Investigative materials, notes, correspondence, and reports.
    • A record that includes the identity of a confidential source, including individuals subject to the Whistleblower Law.
    • A record that includes information made confidential by law.
    • Work papers underlying an audit.
    • A record that if disclosed would reveal the institution, progress or result of an AIU investigation, except the imposition of a fine or civil penalty; the suspension, modification or revocation of a license, permit, registration, certification or similar authorization issued by an agency or an executed settlement unless the agreement is determined to be confidential by a court; deprive a person of the right to an impartial adjudication; constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy; hinder an agency’s ability to secure an administrative or civil sanction; or endanger the life or physical safety of an individual.
  18. Emergency Communications:  Disclosure of records or parts of records, except time response logs, pertaining to audio recordings, telephone or radio transmissions received by emergency dispatch personnel, including 911 recordings, unless the agency or a court determines that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest in nondisclosure.
  19. DNA/RNAA:  Disclosure of DNA and RNA records.
  20. Coroner/Medical Examiner:  Disclosure of specific records and reports of a coroner or medical examiner. 
  21. Draft Minutes:  Disclosure of draft minutes of any School Board meeting until the next regularly scheduled Board meeting, minutes of an executive session, and any
    record of discussions held in executive session.
  22. Real Estate Appraisals/Feasibility Studies:  Disclosure of the contents of real estate appraisals, engineering or feasibility estimates, environmental reviews, audits or evaluations made for or by the AIU relative to the leasing, acquiring, or disposing of real property or an interest in real property; the purchase of public supplies or equipment included in the real estate transaction; and construction projects.
    This exemption does not apply to the documents listed above once the decision is made to proceed with the lease, acquisition, or disposal of real property or an interest in real property, the purchase of public supplies, or a construction project.
  23. Library Records:  Disclosure of library and archive circulation and order records of an identifiable individual or groups of individuals.
  24. Library/Museum Materials:  Disclosure of library archived and museum materials or valuable or rare book collections or documents contributed by gift, grant, bequest, or devise, to the extent of any limitations imposed by the donor as a condition of the contribution.
  25. Archeological Site/Endangered Species:  Disclosure of a record identifying the location of an archeological site or an endangered or threatened plant or animal species if not already known to the general public.
  26. Pre-Contract Award Documents:  Disclosure of a proposal pertaining to AIU procurement or disposal of supplies, service, or construction prior to the award of the contract or prior to the opening and rejection of all bids; financial information of a bidder or offerer requested in an invitation for bid or request for proposals to demonstrate the bidder’s or offerer’s economic capability; or the identity of members, notes, and other records of AIU proposal evaluation committees established under law relating to competitive sealed proposals.
  27. Insurance Communications:  Disclosure of a record or information relating to a communication between the AIU and its insurance carrier, administrative service organization, or risk management office.
    This exemption does not apply to a contract with an insurance carrier, administrative service organization, or risk management office, or to financial records relating to the provision of insurance.
  28. Social Services:  Disclosure of a record or information identifying an individual who applies for or receives social services, the type of social services received by an individual, an individual’s application to receive social services, or eligibility to receive social services.
  29. General Assembly Correspondence:  Disclosure of correspondence between an individual and member of the General Assembly and records accompanying the correspondence that would identify an individual requesting assistance or constituent services, except for correspondence between a member of the General Assembly and a principal or lobbyist under law.
  30. Minor:  Disclosure of a record identifying the name, home address, or date of birth  of a child seventeen (17) years of age or younger.

Financial Records

The listed exemptions do not apply to financial records, except that the Open Records Officer shall redact the portions of a financial record protected under exemptions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 16, or 17.

Aggregated Data

The listed exemptions do not apply to aggregated data maintained or received by the AIU, except for data protected under exemptions 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.

Law Enforcement Activity

The Open Records Officer will not disclose the identity of an individual performing an undercover or covert law enforcement activity.

Fees

The fee for copying a public record will be $.25 a page.  No fee may be imposed for review of a record to determine whether the record is subject to access under law. Prior to granting access, the AIU may require prepayment of estimated fees when the fees required to fulfill the request are expected to exceed $100.00. The Executive Director may waive duplication fees when the requester duplicates the record or the Executive Director deems it is in the public interest to do so.

The AIU’s established list of reasonable fees applicable to records requests will comply with the following restrictions:

  1. Postage:  Fees will not exceed the actual mailing cost.
  2. Duplication:  Fees for photocopying, printing from electronic media or microfilm, copying onto electronic media, transmission by facsimile or other electronic means,
    request by an individual employed by or connected with a newspaper or magazine of general circulation, weekly publication, press association, or radio or television
    station when the purpose of the request is obtaining information for publication or broadcast, and for a request by a nonprofit organization for the conduct of educational research.
  3. Complex and Extensive Data Sets:  Fees for copying based on the reasonable market value of the same or closely related sets and include geographic information systems and integrated property assessment lists. These fees do not apply to a request by an individual employed by or connected with a newspaper or magazine of general circulation, weekly publication, press association, or radio or television station when the purpose of the request is obtaining information for publication or broadcast, and for a request by a nonprofit organization for the conduct of educational research.
  4. Certification:  Fees for official certification of copies if the certification is for the purpose of legally verifying a public record and is requested by the requester.
  5. Conversion to Paper:  Duplication fees for a record maintained only electronically or in other non-paper media will be limited to the lesser of either the fee for duplication on paper or in the original media, unless the requester specifically requests that the record be duplicated in the more expensive medium.
  6. Enhanced Electronic Access:  Fees for providing enhanced electronic access but only to the extent that the enhanced electronic access is in addition to making the records accessible for inspection and duplication by a requester. These fees may be a flat-rate fee, a subscription fee for a period of time, per-transaction fee, a fee based on the cumulative time of system access, any other reasonable method, or a combination of these. These fees must be reasonable; may not be established with the intent or effect of excluding individuals from access to records or their duplicates or of creating a profit for the AIU; and must be approved by the Office of Open Records.

Except as provided by law, no other fees may be imposed unless the AIU necessarily incurs costs for complying with a request for a public record, and then such fees must be reasonable.

Legal References

  • 24 P.S. §4-408, 4-433, 5-5 18
  • 22 Pa. Code §12.33
  • 34 C.F.R. Part 99
  • 65 P.S. Sec. 67.101 et seq.
  • 28 C.F.R. Sec. 35.160, 35.164
  • 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq.

Right to Know Request Form

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