Open Records Requests
Make sure when you file a RTK request, you are seeking records and not just asking questions. The law governs the release of records, not answering questions.
A record is defined as “any information regardless of its physical form or character that documents a transaction or activity of an agency AND is created, received, or retained pursuant to law OR in connection with a transaction, business or activity of an agency” (emphasis added).
Records can take many forms, including papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, film or sound recordings, information stored or maintained electronically, and data-processed or image-processed documents. Note that e-mails can also be a form of public records, subject to any exceptions.
Exceptions: Certain Information Protected from Disclosure
All agency records are subject to the Right-to-Know Law. However, not all records are public records. The law contains 30 exceptions, cited in Section 708, that permit an Agency to withhold records. An Agency may deny release of a record if it falls within one of the 30 exceptions designed to protect information that is confidential or may jeopardize safety or investigations. Types of records that can be withheld include records related to personal or public security, DNA/RNA records, autopsy records, Social Security numbers, personal financial information, personal email addresses, marital status, identity of a covert law enforcement officer, home address of judges or law enforcement, confidential source records, and victim information. Other laws also make certain records non-public.
Submitting an Appeal to the OOR
Appeals may also be submitted via fax (717-425-5343) or postal mail:
E-mail Attachment Formats: Appeals filed via e-mail may include PDF, Microsoft Word (doc, docx, or rtf), Microsoft Excel (xls or xlsx), and image file (jpg, png, gif, or tiff) attachments. If an appeal to be filed via e-mail includes an attachment of any other format, call the Office of Open Records (717-346-9903) before sending it. Any other formats may be rejected by Commonwealth servers.
The OOR prefers to receive appeals through the online form, or via e-mail as a Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or PDF attachment.
The OOR Appeals Form can be used to appeal full denials, partial denials, and deemed denials (i.e., when the agency doesn’t respond by the deadline), as well as to appeal any fees being charged by the agency.
E-mail Attachment Filesize: If an appeal to be filed via e-mail includes an attachment exceeding 4MB, call the Office of Open Records (717-346-9903) before sending it. Attachments exceeding 4MB may be rejected by Commonwealth servers.
Office of Open Records
333 Market Street, 16th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-2234
In-person submissions are accepted at the Office of Open Records, 333 Market Street, 16th Floor Harrisburg, PA, during normal business hours.
The deadline for an appeal submitted electronically (e-mail or fax) is 11:59:59 p.m. on the 15th business day from the mailing date of the Agency’s response or the date that the request was deemed denied. For in-person submissions and submissions via postal mail, the deadline is 5:00 p.m. on the 15th business day.
The simplest and best way to prepare an appeal is to use the official OOR Appeal Form.