Thursday, July 21, 2016

MTL is failing again with the Office of Open Records

The Municipality of Mt. Lebanon lost, at the minimum, a third Final Determination by the PA Office of Open Records. See  Mt. Lebanon is pulling the same crap as they did with me.

  • Mt. Lebanon invoked a 30 day extension to respond to the Request, but failed to do so in 30 days. At that point, the Request was deemed denied.
  • On the 33rd day, MTL claimed that the records were confidential AND argued that the request was "overly broad."
  • The Requestor appealed to the OOR, challenging the denial. A week later, both parties submitted position statements, as in both of my appeals.
  • The Requestor only asked for electronic records, nothing scanned or printed. Mt. Lebanon admitted that there were some electronic records, but then goes on to say that the Requestor was modifying the request, which is not permitted. They pulled the same crap with me. In all three cases, the requests were not modified on appeal.
  • MTL argues that there was too much information to email. MTL is permitted to put all the information on a CD or a flash drive and charge the Requestor the actual cost of the media.
Mt. Lebanon has thirty days to comply or go the same route as they chose with me TWICE, and appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. As noted by Commissioner Steve Silverman, appealing to a higher court is free to taxpayers according to the contract with Buchanan Ingersoll. The only cost for transparency is with the Requestor.

I know that Rep. Dan Miller is personally inviting our five commissioners to his Office of Open Records seminar on September 15. Thank you, Dan!


Anonymous said...

When Ms. Nelson made the same request from another community on February 9, 2016, it was entirely complete by 2/24/16.

Mary E

E. T. Gillen said...

Mary E,
Thanks for the link. Evidently, Ms. Nelson is from the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. I looked at their website, and wouldn't you know that they are using the same OpenGov Financial Data software that Mt. Lebanon is so proud of.

Here is their link to their financial data. OpenGov Financial Data Just look at what that software is capable of sharing.

Here is Mt. Lebanon's. OpenLebo

Here is their transparency web page. Transparency

Here is Mt. Lebanon's. Wait. Where the heck is it? I finally found this: Official Documents

Say what you want about Steve Feller. He was an excellent Open Records Officer. He didn't charge for small RTKs. Bonnie Cross will hold up everything until you pay that quarter up front! That is after a thirty day legal review. And then she'll be late. Then you have to appeal to the Office of Open Records. Just as the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, CA experienced.

Nick M., I guess we aren't the only ones who are treated like that.

E. T. Gillen said...

This is the first paragraph from the City of Rancho Palos Verdes' Transparency page:

"Being transparent is much more than just opening the financial books to residents who have an interest, it is a state of operating where information on everything from finances and projects to codes of conduct and the ways to communicate with both City government and Elected Officials are in the open and easy to find.

The City of Rancho Palos Verdes hopes the residents we serve find this transparency portal both informative and helpful."

Wow. I'm amazed.

E. T. Gillen said...

In Mt. Lebanon, we're called busy bodies, told to mind our own business, treated as if we are crazy, or just plain ignored when we want answers. Oh wait. Or we are taken to court.
I wonder if our commissioners will take the City of Rancho Palos Verdes will be taken to court.

RG said...

The municipality is a "98lb weakling" compared to the "beach bully" that is the Mt. Lebanon School District, with its merry band of school board socialists. If transparency were ever needed it is there.

Anonymous said...

Hi Elaine...

As you know, our government officials do their very best to make it very difficult to obtain public information often through intimidation tactics. My Ward 4 commissioner Dave Brumfield is a true non-believer of citizens rights to an open government.

Here is an outright lie he told me in an email dated May 11, 2016 that I want to share with your readers.

"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."

His reply was:

"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."

Everything that Dave Brumfield wrote in his reply was a lie.

What we have in our commission and our manager is a "wink-wink, nod-nod, I scratch your back you scratch mine, good ole boys club"...and it's becoming more apparent every day.

Nick M.

Jason Margolis said...

5 years living here = this realization.

The only thing the MTL establishment wants open is our wallets.

E. T. Gillen said...

Two weeks ago, Commonwealth Court weighed in on large RTK requests.
Commonwealth Court Weighs in on Large RTKL Requests
Just because a request is for a large number of records does not mean that an agency is excused from its obligation to produce the requested documents.
Mt. Lebanon tried to do that with the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.

Recently, the PA Office of Open Records launched a new website.

Under FAQs, itemized cell phone bills are public record. The Supreme Court upheld that itemized bills for cellular telephones paid by an agency are financial records that show a disbursement of public funds, despite the reimbursement for personal calls paid by the publics. The Court upheld that private telephone numbers (a type of personal identifier) must be redacted from the records before they can be disclosed. At that point, Bonnie Cross will be charging 25¢ per copy for redacting records.

In addition, Brumfield thinks that filing RTK are limited to MTL residents. Any US citizen can file a RTK. Every US citizen has the right to know.

E. T. Gillen said...

I see a warning to Agencies on the new OOR website about
RTKs asking for trade secrets or proprietary information.

I filed a RTK asking for the type of bait that was used by Tony DeNicola and what type of baiting system he used, knowing that it is illegal to put bait on the ground in Allegheny County. I was told that the information I requested was proprietary. We all know that DeNicola does not own a patent on apples or corn. We also know that he was putting piles of bait on the ground.

I cannot file another RTK asking for this information again, but if someone else wants to ask what kind of bait and the method of distribution, I would be curious to see if Mt. Lebanon pulls that crap again.

E. T. Gillen said...

Corrected link:

E. T. Gillen said...

Something weird is going on with Blogger. Here is another corrected link.

Anonymous said...

Elaine, are you sure this Ariane works in City of Rancho Palos Verdes? I think the request was by her on behalf of "Open Records Data Retrieval" which seems to be this: I think the idea is to compile the requested data on different towns so investors can make better choices. But I am no authority on any of this and I have no idea whether it is legit. But what IS legit anymore?


E. T. Gillen said...

Mary, I don't know what day it is anymore. All I know is that Jason Margolis is right. The only thing the MTL establishment wants open is our wallets. Everything else is spun by the PIO.

Anonymous said...

Nick---Here is one positive thing about Brumfield: He is not running for reelection in 2017. If only the same were true about Silverman....


Anonymous said...

These people enjoy more transparency than the average citizen: