South Fayette withholds figures detailing potential costs of school expansion options
South Fayette school board President Leonard Fornella twice this week refused to release public information detailing potential costs of high school expansion options.
Fornella, an attorney, acknowledged the information is public record under the state's open records law, which helps ensure government documents are available to citizens.
“I am not giving incomplete, indecipherable financial information to a novice who won't understand it,” Fornella told a Tribune-Review reporter on Wednesday. “File a Right to Know request if you need to.”
Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel with the Pennsylvania News Media Association, said Fornella's reasoning is not a basis for denial.
“That's completely inappropriate and outside the context of the information,” she said.
The Trib on Wednesday filed a Right to Know request to the district seeking a report by Eckles Architecture that details possible high school expansion costs. The school district has five business days to respond to the request.
Information and records presented to a quorum — in this case, a board majority — during a public meeting are public under the law, Melewsky said.
At a special meeting on Tuesday, school board members discussed the progress of an expansion feasibility study by Eckles, based in New Castle. An earlier demographic study showed the high school on Old Oakdale Road will be at capacity by 2016 — about 800 students.
Copies of the Eckles report given to board members included construction and design scenarios for the expansion, along with a separate packet on the possible cost.
Fornella provided a copy of the construction and design options to the Trib but refused a reporter's request for the financial information.
“You wouldn't understand it,” he said.
School board members Teresa Burroughs, William Newcomer, Alan Vezzi, Lena Hannah, Alexander Czaplicki, Todd Petrillo, Paul Brinsky and Jennifer Iriti could not be reached for comment. District solicitor Fred Wolfe was unavailable for comment.
Board members alluded to information in their packet, including financial figures, throughout the public meeting.
“There may be some information that is exempted, but if they're talking about it in a public meeting, at public session, it's public record,” Melewsky said.
Megan Guza is a Trib Total Media staff writer. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Megan Guza to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- No federal funds to help enforce Pa. ban on texting by drivers
- Allegheny County Council wants to hike members’ $3K expense accounts
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- U.S. Steel to relocate corporate headquarters on former Civic Arena site
- Newsmaker: Christine Pease-Hernandez
- Reading Harry Potter provides clues to brain activity, CMU researchers say
- Surgery for man shot by Pittsburgh officer on hold amid legal limbo
- Rare surgery helps woman beat paralysis
- Savings, aesthetics of LED praised, but streetlight conversion could cost Pittsburgh $13M
- Growth spurs expanded staff at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
- Millions in pollution fines went unused for decades in Allegheny County