Right To Know Requests
“Ensuring open and honest government is a bedrock principle of democracy. It can only be attained through the unfettered exchange of information between citizens and their government. A citizen’s right-to-know, sometimes known as freedom of information, fosters accountability, prevents abuses of power and promotes trust in government.”
2009 OPEN RECORDS OR RIGHT TO KNOW LAW: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Upper Dublin Township has had an effective system for dealing with records requests for some time, but as of January 1, 2009, new guidelines changed what is considered to be an “open” record, and what isn’t. The Township has adopted a policy to guide responses to public records requests. Those wishing to make such requests are encouraged to first read the policy. Requests for public records must be made on a Township form or a form approved by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. The Township form is on this web site. Requests received after 4:30 PM will be dated the next business day.
The Township form can be saved submitted by email to the Upper Dublin Open Records Officer if you have Acrobat Reader 7.0 or higher or can be submitted by mail, fax or in person to:
Open Records Officer
Upper Dublin Township
801 Loch Alsh Avenue
Fort Washington, PA 19034
PHONE (215) 643-1600 (ext. 3220)
FAX (215) 542-0797
Requests for the Fort Washington Fire Company, No.1 concerning Open Records can be emailed to the FWFC Open Records Officer or should be mailed to:
Open Records Officer
Fort Washington Fire Company
1245 Fort Washington Avenue
Fort Washington, PA 19034
If a request is for access to a criminal investigative record from Upper Dublin Township, including from the Upper Dublin Township Police Department, and is denied or deemed denied, the requester may file an appeal in writing addressed to:
Montgomery County Deputy District Attorney Open Records Appeals Officer
Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office
P.O. Box 311, Norristown, PA 19404
Phone: (610) 278-3090
If any other request is denied or deemed denied for any reason, the requester may file an appeal in writing with the Pennsylvania State Office of Open Records addressed to:
Executive Director, Office of Open Records
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, 4th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120.
They may also be submitted via FAX: (717) 425-5343 or EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org as a Microsoft Word or PDF attachment.
In all cases the appeal must be filed within fifteen (15) business days of the mailing date of the Township's notice of denial, or within fifteen (15) days of a deemed denial, and it must: (a) state the grounds upon which the requester asserts that the record is a public record and (b) address any grounds stated by the Township for delaying or denying the request.
Policy-Right To Know Policy (27.9 KiB)
Form-Right to Know Request Form (32.4 KiB)
Frequently Asking Questions
1. Whose burden is it to establish that a document is or is not a public record?
Under the 2009 law it is the Township’s burden to establish that a document is not a public record.
2. What form must documents take in order to be a public record?
Any form, including letters, memos, plans, video tapes, charts, and electronic records.
3. Are emails a record which can be requested?
Yes. That does not mean there is wholesale release of e-mail records. It means that an e-mail, like any other record, goes through the same analysis to determine whether it is a public record.
4. Can a public body limit the number of requests a citizen can make?
No. The law states that a state or local agency cannot limit the number of records which may be requested or made available for inspection or duplication. However, citizens should use good judgment in seeking records from the public body and not use this law to harass or overburden a public body from performing its job. Also, a public body can deny repeated requests for the same records by the same requester.
5. Can a requester ask for records in person?
Yes. However, if a person wishes to take advantage of the appeal process, the request must be in writing and on an approved form. Upper Dublin intends that all requests for records that are not obviously public records be made in writing on the Township’s official form, which is available on-line, so that appropriate tracking of the Township’s responses can be maintained. The Township is also required to accept a request form generated by the Pennsylvania Open Records Office.
6. Can a requester ask for records by telephone?
No. Requests for Township records must be made in writing and on an approved form.
7. What are some examples of public records?
- Agency decisions
- Grant Applications
- Name, title, salary of public employees and officials
- Records of dealings between the Township and contractors
- All correspondence and communications not dealing with decisional matters
- Summaries of police activities (police “blotter”)
8. What are some types of information that will NOT be available?
- Social Security numbers
- Drivers license numbers
- Employee numbers
- Home, cellular or personal phone numbers
- Personal financial information
- Spouse’s name, marital status, beneficiary or dependent information
- Home addresses of law enforcement and judges
- Identity of confidential informants
- Autopsy reports – except that name, cause and manner of death, which are public
- Records that identify social service recipients, including welfare recipients
- A minor’s name, home address, date of birth
- Constituent requests
- Library circulation cards
- Pre-decisional deliberations
- Criminal and non-criminal investigation reports
9. Does the 2009 law cover records created before January 1, 2009?
Yes. All records in the possession of any agency are covered even if they are decades old.
10. Can the Township ask why a person wants to obtain the information?
No. The law prohibits a public body from requiring a person “to disclose the purpose or motive in requesting access to records.”
11. Can a request be denied because the requester is not a citizen of Pennsylvania?
No. Any legal resident of the United States can request a record, including a person with a green card.
12. Can the Township charge a fee for copying public records?
Yes. However, the law states that the PA Office of Open Records establishes the fees for duplication. Fees for Township records are set forth in the Open Records Policy.
13. What State Agency oversees compliance with the Act?
The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. Its mission is to enforce the Right-to-Know law and to serve as a resource to citizens, public officials and members of the media.
14. If a record is denied, is there a right to appeal?
Yes, a citizen can appeal directly to the state Office of Open Records for most requests. It will assign an appeal officer who will review the request and the Township’s response and make a decision as to whether the Township acted properly. See "Appeals" above for detailed information on general record appeals and criminal investigative record appeals.