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Your right to know: Plug this hole

If Pennsylvania’s open-records law is to deliver on its promise of greater transparency, government can’t be allowed to form private agencies (then hide behind them) to escape public scrutiny — and courts must uphold an Office of Open Records ruling to that effect.

The ruling says the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors is a “local agency” subject to open-records requests under the law because the Legislature created it, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reports. The association is appealing the ruling in Cumberland County Court; the issue could end up before the state Supreme Court.

If the Office of Open Records ruling is upheld — as it must be, for transparency’s sake — the township supervisors association wouldn’t be the only such group whose communications with state government are affected.

John L. Gedid, a Widener Law School professor, cites the Pennsylvania County Commissioners Association, Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities, Pennsylvania Boroughs Association and Pennsylvania School Boards Association as examples of organizations that would be subject to the open-records law, too.

He agrees that such associations can’t be allowed to circumvent the law to hide their lobbying activities from the public.

Such groups weren’t subject to the state’s old, weaker open-records law. But they must be subject to the current, stronger one. Otherwise, too many officials at the local and county levels will exploit too big a loophole in the people’s right to know.


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