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What is a public record in Pennsylvania?

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

These are public records that must be disclosed under Pennsylvania's Right to Know Act :

Accounts, vouchers or contracts dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds or the acquisition, use or disposal of services or supplies, materials, equipment or other property (includes canceled checks and cell phone bills paid by the county)

Minutes, orders or decisions by an agency* fixing the personal or property rights, privileges, immunities, duties or obligations of any person or group of persons

Reports, communications or other papers pertaining to safety and health in industrial plants

Records of a conviction for a criminal act

What's an agency
in Right to Know?

Definition of an AGENCY under the Right to Know Law:

Any department, board or commission of the executive branch of the Commonwealth government, any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission or any State or municipal authority or similar organization which performs essential government functions.

Examples of agencies school boards, zoning boards, the governor of Pennsylvania, universities belonging to the state system of higher education (such as Millersville University and West Chester State University, but not state-related universities like Penn State or Temple University), the Public Utility Commission, and sometimes even non-profit corporations if they are deemed to be agencies by Pennsylvania statute (for example, non-profit corporations that lease property with rental values in excess of $1,500,000 to the Commonwealth).

Examples of entities that are not within the definition of "agency" include private groups and businesses, community colleges, state-related universities, and most non-profit agencies.

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Newspaper Association


In addition, Pennsylvania courts have ruled that the following records are subject to inspection and copying under the Right to Know Act:

Code of Ethics and manuals fixing duties and obligations regarding the treatment of state inmates

Contract between successful bidder on PennDOT contract to perform emissions inspection

Department of Welfare: Nursing home settlement and appeal activity reports

Real estate appraisals performed in connection with a city's effort to acquire property (held to fix personal or property rights of the owners of the property affected)

A report prepared by a hospital accreditation commission for welfare department

A township's and municipality's canceled checks

Arrest warrant affidavits, unless court order says otherwise

Exam papers and scores of applicants for civil service jobs

Records of retired state employees

Attendance record cards of professional employees of school districts

The building record portion of property records (containing construction specifications) maintained by county boards for the assessment and revision of taxes

Accident reports and certain studies conducted by the Commonwealth concerning the accidents

Completed reports prepared by the Department of Labor and Industry on safety and health in industrial plants

The review and refund docket of the Board of Finance and Revenue

The list of names and addresses of kindergarten children in a school district

Police payroll records

Lists of people taking CPA exams

Addresses to which a school district forwarded the scholastic records of former pupils

Lists of delinquent taxpayers

Subscriber lists for magazines published by the Commonwealth

Crime, death and accident reports filed with the police department

Names and addresses of public high school graduating classes

Evaluations of state psychiatric institutions compiled by a commission which prescribes standards for hospitals participating in certain federally funded programs

Statistical data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education on the racial and ethnic composition, by school district, of programs for exceptional children

Settlement agreement in police brutality lawsuit

A list of unclaimed checks held by the state Treasury Department.

Escheat records of abandoned and unclaimed property held by the Department of Revenue

Hearing transcripts of testimony and evidence from an electric utility base rate case before the PUC

Although individual agencies still may agree to release the following information, Pennsylvania courts have ruled that these records are NOT subject to inspection or copying under the Right to Know Act:

A Pennsylvania Insurance Department investigative file on a licensee

Psychological, staffing and job evaluations made to complete a state prisoner's suit against Department of Corrections officials in regards to parole consideration

Criminal pre-sentence reports and related psychiatric and psychological reports

Notice of compensation records from Bureau of Workers Compensation

Correspondence and memoranda by Department of General Services concerning request for proposals to lease office space to government agency

Information relating to assignment of assistant district attorneys to specific cases

The contents of a contractual settlement between a school board and a teacher

Field investigation notes taken by city planning department staff to report to a city council member

Departmental budget reports required by the budget secretary (held to be a statement of facts and events, not an "account" consisting of debits and credits)

Names, addresses and amounts received by welfare recipients

Contents of a teacher's personnel file maintained by the school district

Financial disclosure statements voluntarily submitted in response to executive orders requesting such statements from members of the governor' s cabinet and members of certain agencies

Financial information regarding the operation of state-related universities

Physical fitness reports and promotional evaluation reports of police departments

The name of a person who accused a police officer of receiving stolen property as well as the police department's files on the investigation of the complaint

X "Raw data" compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Health for a study on the connection between the Three Mile Island accident and birth defects

Information from tax returns filed with a municipality and results of tax audits

Plans for special education programs submitted to, but not acted on, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education

Request for the statements and notes of testimony of alleged co-defendants, as well as requests for all relevant newspaper clippings and articles dealing with a criminal case

Job applications that were not reviewed

Police investigative reports

Audio tape recordings of 911 telephone calls

Urinalysis reports from halfway houses

Legal opinions from solicitors and attorneys that are not essential components of agency decisions

Inmates' medical and mental health records

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