PA: Report finds most agencies field few open records requests

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Most agencies receive few or no requests for records under Pennsylvania’s public access law and only a fraction of them are appealed, according to a report on law’s costs released Tuesday.

A drastic revision of Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law was enacted a decade ago, leading to expanded access and a new set of procedures for handling requests, denials and appeals.

The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report was ordered after some governmental bodies raised complaints about the cost of complying with the law and the amount of time it can distract public employees from other duties.

Auditors said about 40 percent of the 588 anonymous requests they made for agency budgets were ignored or turned down, even though it’s indisputably a public record.

Findings in the report:


-More than half the agencies surveyed spent less than $500 annually dealing with open records requests. A majority received 10 or fewer requests in 2016, although 6 percent had to answer more than 100. Combined, state and local agencies received an estimated 109,000 requests under the law over the course of the year.

-About 4 percent of agencies accounted for 80 percent of the appeals. More than 94 percent reported no appeals.

-The study’s authors said the total cost for state and local agencies to field requests in 2016 was in the range of $5.7 million to $9.7 million. Read more…