Court sides with AP over access to Corbett's calendar
By The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 1:33 p.m.
HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania appeals court Tuesday sided with The Associated Press in a battle over public access to Gov. Tom Corbett's calendar entries and emails, saying his legal team failed to justify the redaction of certain information.
The seven-member Commonwealth Court panel unanimously upheld a ruling by the state Office of Open Records ruling that the governor's office must turn over the requested records without redacting portions that it claimed are protected by exceptions to the state Right-to-Know Law.
The AP sought records covering an 18-day period shortly after Corbett took office in 2011. The governor's office provided some records but blacked out 17 emails and 28 calendar entries, including the subject of scheduled meetings on grounds that the information could suggest the nature of private internal deliberations that are exempt from disclosure under the law.
The open-records officer for the governor's office submitted an affidavit attesting that the redactions reflected “internal deliberations that preceded decisions related to subjects including the transition into the new administration, personnel, budgetary and policy decisions, related courses of actions and implementation of changes in the direction of the administration.”
The court panel said that, while calendar entries can be exempt, the affidavit was not specific enough to justify exempting the records from disclosure.
“It is not enough to include in the affidavit a list of subjects to which internal deliberations may have related. The affidavit must be specific enough to permit the OOR or this court to ascertain how disclosure of the entries would reflect the internal deliberations on those subjects,” Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer wrote in the panel's 15-page opinion.
Corbett's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.
Pennsylvania lawmakers overhauled what had been one of the nation's weakest open-records laws in 2008.
The changes that took effect in 2009 established a presumption that government records are public and required officials to justify why a record should be withheld rather than forcing requesters to establish why it should be made public. The law includes more than two dozen exceptions involving personal privacy, public safety and internal deliberations by public officials.
The panel did not rule on the issue of whether the open records office exceeded its authority by directing the governor's office to provide unredacted copies of the governor's calendars so they could be privately reviewed to determine whether they qualified for a Right-to-Know law exception. The governor's office appealed, arguing the open records office was exceeding its authority.
In a separate opinion that concurred with other aspects of the ruling, Judge Patricia McCullough said the Right-to-Know Law gives the open records office authority to hold hearings, but not conduct private reviews.
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.
- Police say they arrested a fellow cop for driving drunk after he shows up to work intoxicated
- U.S. tourist, Korean War vet arrives home after severa-week detention
- Jokinen takes center stage as fill-in for Pens’ Malkin
- 2 Mon Valley educators up for state’s Teacher of the Year honor
- Czech premier not happy to attend Mandela funeral
- That’s a Jeep Cherokee? No retro in 2014 model
- For Steelers defense, it’s all a matter of trust
- Steelers notebook: Woodley expects to start Sunday vs. Dolphins
- Ligonier Y ups security in response to threat
- Nigella Lawson: A brand blemished but unbowed
- Penguins notebook: Malkin to miss 2nd straight game Saturday