Carbon Conservation District
Right To Know Policy and Procedure
January 8, 2009
This policy establishes the Carbon Conservation District’s (District) procedures for meeting its obligations under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law, which was revised in 2008. It applies to all requests for “public records.” This document establishes the framework within which the District will exercise its administrative discretion in the future. The District recognizes the value of making information available to the public, and is committed to continually improving public access to public information and fostering public participation in the decision-making process. The Office of Open Records may promulgate regulations setting forth different or additional requirements and procedures, and these should be consulted.
A. Open Records Officer
The District has designated the following person who shall serve as its Open Records Officer. All requests for public records are administered by the Open Records Officer. Requests should be directed to the Open Records Officer at the following address:
Audrey Wargo, District Secretary
Carbon Conservation District
5664 Interchange Road
Lehighton, PA 18235
B. Requests for Public Records
All Right to Know Law requests must be received by the District’s Open Records Officer. A requester may make, and the District may fulfill verbal, written (including email or fax) or anonymous verbal or written requests for access to records under this policy. If the requester wishes to pursue the relief and remedies provided for under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law (i.e. pursue an appeal of a denial), the request must be in writing. Requests must describe the records sought with sufficient specificity to enable the District to ascertain which records are being requested. The request must include the name and address to which the response is to be sent. See Appendix A for a sample request form. If the district receives a request for a public record that is not in the possession of the District, the
Open Records Officer will: 1) notify the requester that they do not possess the record requested;
2) direct the request to appropriate persons in another agency, if known.
C. Classification of Records
“Public records” are defined as
1. Information that documents a transaction or activity of the district, and that is created, received or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business or activity of the District,
2. Except where a record meets any of the following:
a. it falls into one the exemptions under the RTK law,
b. access is restricted under any state or federal law or regulation or
c. it is protected by a legal privilege, such as attorney-client privilege.
Records Exempt from being Public Records
Under the law some types of records are not available to the public. In this category are personal notes, computer security information, draft minutes, notes from an executive session, confidential proprietary information or trade secrets, medical information, personal identifiers, employee records, labor relations, criminal and non-criminal investigative records, non-real estate tax records, driver records, attorney-client communications, or records that if disclosed could jeopardize state or federal funds. This is a partial list of the exempted records. For a complete list the requester may request a copy of Section 708 of the Right to Know Law from the District.The District will assume that the requester is not asking for these types of records unless specifically requested. In most cases, these exempted records will not be provided.
D. Procedures for Reviewing Requests for Public Records
The District’s Open Records Officer will ensure that the Operating Procedures described in Section II of this Policy are followed.
Following the submittal of a request the District will make every effort to fulfill the request within five business days of receipt by the District’s Open Records Officer. This may include notifying the requestor that the records will be made available for review and copying at the District.
If the request cannot be fulfilled in five business days, the District’s Open Records Officer will send written notice, including email, to the requester stating the reason(s) why additional time is needed, when the District expects to be able to fulfill the request, and any fees that may be required. See Operating Procedures, Section II.
If the District’s Open Records Officer believes that a record contains confidential proprietary information or trade secrets, the Officer will notify the third party that provided the information of the request, within five days of the request. The third party will then have five days from receipt of the notice to provide input on the release of the record. The Officer will decide whether the information qualifies as confidential proprietary information or trade secrets within ten days after that third party has received the notice.
E. Denial of Request for Public Records
If the District’s response is a denial of a written request for access, whether in whole or in part, the denial shall be issued in writing and shall include:
1. A description of the record requested
2. The specific reasons for the denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority
3. The printed name, title, business address, business phone number, and signature of the Open Records Officer on whose authority the denial is issued
4. Date of the response
5. The procedure to appeal the denial
F. Access to Records
The District may respond by notifying the requestor that a record is available through publicly accessible electronic means such as the District’s website, or another agency’s website. The District may also provide the records electronically through email or other means such as a CD. The District may also choose to make the records available for review and copying at the District. However, the District’s copying facilities are limited. No records may be removed from the District office except by District staff. If the District is unable to send the requested documents to
the requestor, in-house arrangements will be made to have them duplicated. Copying and other fees are listed in Appendix B.
II. OPERATING PROCEDURES
A. Within 5 business days of receipt of written request by the District’s Open Records Officer:
1. Immediately upon receipt of a request the District’s Open Records Officer will date stamp the request, record the request in a logbook, compute the day that the five-day response expires and make a notation of that date on the request.
2. The district will do a thorough search for the records requested and determine whether they are public records as provided in the Right to Know Law.
3. For records involving programs delegated to or contracted with the District by DEP, the State Conservation Commission, or another agency; the District will confer with the State Conservation Commission, DEP or the other agency as needed. The District will also confer with District legal counsel as needed [DEP or Department of Agriculture legal counsel (or the District or County solicitor where appropriate)].
4. The District’s Open Records Officer will review, sign, mail, and log response. A response will be sent within 5 business days of receiving any written request.
• The response can be information about how and when the requestor can visit the District office to view the records.
• The response can include information that the requested materials are available upon payment of applicable fees.
• The response can be a denial of the request in whole or in part; any denials will specify:
i. A description of the record requested
ii. The specific reasons for the denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority
iii. The printed name, title, business address, business phone number, and signature of the open records officer on whose authority the denial is issued
iv. Date of the response
v. The procedure to appeal the denial
• The response may be a statement that the Open Records Officer will be taking additional time (not exceeding 30 calendar days) to respond, if one or more of the following reasons applies:
i. Removal of confidential proprietary (or otherwise restricted) information
ii. Records are at a remote location
iii. Specified staffing limitations prevent a timely response
iv. Legal review is required
v. Requester is not complying with the District’s policies, including failure to pay fees
vi. The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period.
B. After (if) the District’s Open Records Officer responds that some or all of the records requested are available:
1. The Open Records Officer provides access to the records as arranged with the requestor.
2. If records are electronic, Open Records Officer arranges for computer viewing, duplication or the District may respond by notifying the requestor that a record is available through publicly accessible electronic means such as the District’s website or another agency’s website.
3. If the District will make copies, and if copying costs exceed $100, the Open Records Officer will collect costs before copying and log payment; upon delivery of copies, Open Records Officer will collect any unpaid fees and log payment.
4. If the requester fails to retrieve the requested records within 60 days of the Districts response, the District may dispose of any copies which have not been retrieved and retain any fees paid to date.
A. Appealing the District’s Response
The Right to Know Law provides an appeal process through the Office of Open Records. Here is a summary of that process:
1. File an appeal. If a requestor wishes to dispute the District’s denial, the requester must send his or her reasons to the Office of Open Records, Attention: Terry Mutchler, Executive Director, Office of Open Records, Commonwealth Keystone Building, 400 North Street, 4th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17120. The reasons for the dispute must be mailed within 15 business days of the mailing date indicated on the District’s response, or if no response is provided then within 15 days of the date the request is deemed to be denied. The requestor’s dispute letter must state the grounds upon which the requester asserts that the record is a public record and shall address any grounds stated by the District for delaying or denying the request.
2. Appeal Process. Unless the requestor agrees otherwise to the timing, the appeals officer will make a final determination within 30 calendar days of the date the dispute letter is mailed. Prior to issuing its determination, the appeals officer may, at his or her discretion, conduct a hearing. The appeals officer will provide a written explanation of the reason for the decision to the requester and the District. If the appeals officer fails to issue a final determination within 30 days, the appeal is deemed denied.
Section 1307 of the Right-To-Know Law requires the Office of Open Records to establish a fee structure
for Commonwealth Agencies and Local Agencies. The Office of Open Records establishes the following fee structure in accordance with the law.
Record Type Fee
$0.25 per page
(A “photocopy” is either a single-sided copy or one side of a double-sided black-and-white copy of a
standard 8.5” x 11” page)
Certification of a Record:
$1 per record, not per page. Please note that certification fees do not include notarization fees.
Specialized documents: For example, but not limited to, blue prints, color copies, non-standard sized
Documents - Actual Cost
Facsimile/Microfiche/Other Media: Actual Cost
Redaction Fee: No Redaction Fee Will be Imposed
Conversion to Paper:
If a record is only maintained electronically or in other non-paper media, duplication fees shall be limited to the lesser of the fee for duplication on paper or the fee for duplication in the original media unless the requester specifically requests for the record to be duplicated in the more expensive medium. (Sec. 1307(e)).
Postage Fees: Actual Cost of Mailing
Please Also Be Advised:
Fee Limitations: Except as otherwise provided by statute, the law states that no other fees may be imposed unless the agency necessarily incurs costs for complying with the request, and such fees must be reasonable. No fee may be imposed for an agency’s review of a record to determine whether the record is a public record, legislative record or financial record subject to access in accordance with this Act. No fee may be charged for searching for or retrieval of documents. An agency may not charge staff time or salary for complying with a RTK request.
Prepayment: Prior to granting a request for access in accordance with this Act, an agency may require a requester to prepay an estimate of the fees authorized under this section if the fees required to fulfill the request are expected to exceed $100.
Once the request is fulfilled and prepared for release, the Office of Open Records recommends that the agency obtain the cost of the records prior to releasing the records. This recommendation is designed to avoid situations in which the agency provides the records and the requester fails to submit payment.
STANDARD RIGHT-TO-KNOW REQUEST FORM
REQUEST SUBMITTED BY: E-MAIL
NAME OF REQUESTOR: ______________________________________
STREET ADDRESS :_____________________________________________
*Provide as much specific detail as possible so the agency can identify the information.
DO YOU WANT COPIES? YES or NO 8 ½ X 11 @ $.25/ single side
DO YOU WANT TO INSPECT THE RECORDS? YES or NO
DO YOU WANT CERTIFIED COPIES OF RECORDS? YES or NO
RIGHT TO KNOW OFFICER:
DATE RECEIVED BY THE AGENCY:
AGENCY FIVE (5)-DAY RESPONSE DUE:
**Public bodies may fill anonymous verbal or written requests. If the requestor wishes to pursue the relief and remedies provided for in this Act, the request must be in writing. (Section 702.) Written requests need not include an explanation why information is sought or the intended use of the information unless otherwise required by law. (Section 703.)