Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mt. Lebanon aims for financial transparency

Mt. Lebanon aims for financial transparency
The Almanac

From: egillen476 <egillen476@aol.com>
To: commission <commission@mtlebanon.org>; amccreery <amccreery@mtlebanon.org>; kmcgill <kmcgill@mtlebanon.org>
Cc: repmiller <repmiller@pahouse.net>;
Sent: Thu, May 12, 2016 7:38 pm
Subject: financial transparency

Baby steps, but going in the right direction. How about posting the statements of financial interests online, like they do for state representatives? There will be no worries about scanning, damaging originals, charging for copies, filing RTKs, etc. It would be all good.

Elaine Gillen

The above email was sent after several days of emails and RTKs filed over statements of financial interests. Every year, public officials are required to file statements of financial interests a.k.a. financial disclosure statements by May 1 for the previous year. 

Here is what came back from the school district. 


Thank you for writing to Mt. Lebanon School District with your request for information pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law.

On May 2, 2016, we received your request for all Statements of Financial Interests filed in 2016 by those who are required to file them.

Attached is a response to your request and any responsive documents.

Sincerely,

Jeanine Szalinski
Administrative Assistant/Open Records Officer/
Assistant Board Secretary
Superintendent's Office
Mt. Lebanon School District
7 Horsman Drive
Pittsburgh PA  15228
412.344.2077

2016 MTLSD Statements of Financial Interests No fuss, no charges, no delays. Even a polite note.

********

Here is what came back from the municipality for Requestor 1. Read from the bottom - up.

From: David Brumfield [mailto:dbrumfield@mtlebanon.org]
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 2:21 PM
To: Requestor 1
Subject: Re: FW: Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Printer

Requestor 1,

We do not have a procedure because we do not allow it. Further the state does not require us to. If they did I would fight it because we are responsible for those original documents. We cannot risk a resident losing, damaging or even destroying any such document in an attempt to copy it.

Dave Brumfield


On May 11, 2016 10:13 AM, Requestor 1 wrote:
Mr. Brumfield, 
As my Ward 4 representative, can you please find out, what is the procedure for taxpayers to come to the municipal building to make copies of documents that are requested through the right to know laws that are not in electronic format? 
It’s obvious that I have been ignored and lied to on this issue for quite some time now.  

Thank you, 
Requestor 1

From: Requestor 1
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 12:55 PM
To: 'Bonnie Cross' <bcross@mtlebanon.org>
Cc: Commission (commission@mtlebanon.org) <commission@mtlebanon.org>; kmcgill@mtlebanon.org
Subject: RE: Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Printer

What is the procedure for me to personally come by to make copies using my own equipment as the law implies?




From: Bonnie Cross [mailto:bcross@mtlebanon.org]
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 12:48 PM
To: Requestor 1
Subject: Re: Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Printer

Requestor 1,

We have four in electronic format; the remainder are paper. 

One of the four -- the one for Mr. Weis -- did not attach properly.  I am attaching that one again now.  

On Tue, May 10, 2016 at 12:34 PM, Requestor 1 wrote:
Bonnie, 
I have only 3 SFI’s that you sent me. Is this correct? 
From: Bonnie Cross [mailto:bcross@mtlebanon.org]
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 12:23 PM
To: Requestor 1
Subject: Fwd: Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Printer

Requestor 1 
Please find attached a response to your RTK request. 
Regards, 
--
Bonnie Cross

From: bcross@mtlebanon.org
Date: Tue, 10 May 2016 10:15:02 -0400
Subject: Fwd: Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Printer
To: Requestor

Requestor,

Attached, please find a response to your RTK request.  I apologize for my tardiness in responding.

Regards,

-- 
Bonnie Cross
​RTK Officer​

So here is Requestor 2's experience:

From: Requestor 2
To: Keith Mcgill <kmcgill@mtlebanon.org>
Cc: Bonnie Cross <bcross@mtlebanon.org>; commission <commission@mtlebanon.org>
Sent: Tue, May 10, 2016 9:04 am
Subject: RE: RTK Request SFI

Mr. McGill,

I have not heard back from the municipality regarding my request.

From the Pennsylvania Ethics Committee website:

Statements of Financial Interests filed pursuant to the Ethics Act are public documents. The Ethics Act provides that all Statements of Financial Interests filed pursuant to the Ethics Act must be made available for public inspection and copying.
Here is the specific language of the law regarding the Statements of Financial Interests filed by all public officials in Pennsylvania:
§19.4.  Availability of Statements of Financial Interests.

(a) Statements of Financial Interests filed with the Commission under the act are available for public inspection and copying at a charge not to exceed actual cost at the office of the Commission in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., weekdays.

(b) A governmental body required to maintain Statements of Financial Interests shall make them available for public inspection and copying during regular business hours.
(c) Statements of Financial Interests more than 1 year old will be made available for public inspection and copying within 2 working days after the request has been made for the Statements.  The Statements will be kept on file for 5 years.
County and local officials and employees must file their Statements of Financial Interest "with the governing body of the political subdivision in which they serve or are employed. "

What part of "shall make them available for public inspection" don't you understand?

Requestor 2

From: kmcgill@mtlebanon.org
Date: Mon, 2 May 2016 07:38:55 -0400
Subject: Re: RTK Request SFI
To: Requestor 2
CC: bcross@mtlebanon.org

Good morning Requestor 2,

Bonnie Cross is the Right to Know officer for the municipality. I will forward your request to her.

Keith

On Mon, May 2, 2016 at 7:29 AM, Requestor 2 wrote:

See attached pdf and acknowledge receipt of same.

-- 
Keith McGill, AICP
Municipal Manager/Municipal Planner
412-343-3684
kmcgill@mtlebanon.org 

*******

So this is what I sent:

Keith, I have attached the RTK that was from 2014. There were 70 pages from Mt. Lebanon's former manager, Steve Feller's RTK response.


Then I sent:

Keith and Commissioners,

Attached are 57 pages of 2016 Statements of Financial Interests (of 2015) from the Mt. Lebanon School District. The RTK was granted in a timely fashion, within five days. All of the statements were scanned and emailed with no cost to the requestor.

Earlier today, I shared the municipal 2014 statements from Steve Feller, again sent within five days and no cost were incurred by the requestor. All were scanned and emailed.

Why are you making an annual request so difficult? These are very important documents and the request should not be taken lightly. 

I have attached my Right To Know request for Statements of Financial Interests.

Elaine Gillen

******

We'll see what happens...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's time for Brumfield to go.

E. T. Gillen said...

Oh gosh, no. He is going to be commission president next year. He is just warming up!
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Brumfield has to be reelected before he can become commission president next year. Surely someone can get more votes than him. Another four years of Brumfield is unacceptable.

E. T. Gillen said...

Unfortunately, that is not the case. He is VP this year and will be president in January 2017. His term expires December 2017.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Oh. Thanks for the clarification, Elaine. Maybe we could run him out of town before January 2017.

Barbara S. said...

I'm sitting here, shaking my head. There is nothing susceptible to alternative interpretation in the text of the Ethics Act, Section 19.4 (b): "A governmental body required to maintain Statements of Financial Interests SHALL make them available for public inspection and copying during regular business hours" or in the text: MUST allow the Requester to use their own equipment to make copies" (upper-case emphasis mine). Any first-year (actually first-semester) law student knows that "SHALL" and "MUST" leave no room for discretion and do, in fact, have the same legal meaning. The texts do not use words of permission such as "may"; they use words of compunction, and they command compliance! ...just one more indication that our government believes itself to be free to pick and choose and to act as "a law unto itself"! And then they force the law-abiding citizens to incur legal expenses to seek enforcement of the very laws they have taken an oath to uphold? This is unconscionable!

E. T. Gillen said...

Today is Day 5 for my RTK request. They have five days to provide the records. But sometimes, the municipal Open Records Officer (ORO) takes as long as she wants, and then apologizes for the delay.
Elaine