[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Supervisors of the Township of Lehigh as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Secretary/Treasurer — See Ch. 37.
Article I Open Records Policy
[Adopted 12-29-2008 by Ord. No. 2008-10]
The purpose of this policy is to assure compliance with Act 3 of 2008, the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law, as amended; to provide access to public records of Lehigh Township (hereinafter "the Township"); to preserve the integrity of the Township's records; and to minimize the financial impact to the residents of the Township regarding the resources utilized in the receipt and processing of public record requests and the retrieval and copying of public records.
Editor's Note: See 65 P.S. § 67.101 et seq.
It is the policy of the Township to require the presence of a designated employee when public records are examined and inspected and to charge reasonable fees for duplication of the records of the Township. The Township designates the Township Secretary, Alice Rehrig, as the Open Records Officer, responsible for assuring compliance with the Pennsylvania Right-to- Know Law, in accordance with the following guidelines:
The Township Secretary may designate certain employees to process public records requests.
The Township Secretary is responsible for minimizing, where possible, the financial impact to the Township regarding the resources utilized in the receipt and processing of public record requests and the retrieval and copying of public records.
The Open Records Officer shall be appointed on an annual basis by resolution at the Township's reorganization meeting.
All requests for public records of the Township under this policy shall be specific in identifying and describing each public record requested. In no case shall the Township be required to create a public record which does not exist or to compile, maintain, format or organize a public record in a manner in which the Township does not currently compile, maintain, format or organize the public record. All requests for public records shall be submitted in writing and include the date of the request; requestor's name, address and telephone number; certification of United States residency; signature of the requestor; and if duplication is requested, appropriate payment. A sample open records request form is attached hereto.
Editor's Note: Said request form is available in the Township offices.
The designated employee shall make a good faith effort to determine whether each record requested is a public record.
The Township shall facilitate a reasonable response to a request for the Township's public records. In no case is the Township expected to provide extraordinary staff to respond to the request but will respond in a manner consistent with the Township's administrative responsibilities and consistent with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law.
Editor's Note: See 65 P.S. § 67.101 et seq.
The designated employee shall respond to the requestor within five business days from the date of receipt of the written request. If the Township does not respond within five business days of receipt thereof, the request is deemed denied.
If access to the public record requested is approved, the public record shall be available for access during the regular business hours of the Township. The designated employee shall cooperate fully with the requestor, while also taking reasonable measures to protect Township public records from the possibility of theft and/or modification. The presence of a designated employee is required when public records are examined and inspected.
Fees for duplication of public records shall be as established by the commonwealth's Office of Open Records. The Township may, at its discretion, waive fees.
In the event the estimated cost of fulfilling a request submitted under this policy is expected to exceed $100, the designated employee(s) shall obtain the expected cost in advance of fulfilling the request to avoid unwarranted expense of Township resources.
If the request is being reviewed, the notice provided by the Township shall be in writing and include the reason for the review and the expected response date, which shall be within 30 days of the notice of review. If the Township does not respond within 30 days thereof the request is deemed denied. Review of the request is limited to situations where:
The record requested contains information which is subject to access, as well as information which is not subject to access that must be redacted prior to a grant of access. The redacted information is considered a denial as to that information;
The record requires retrieval from a remote location;
A timely response cannot be accomplished due to staffing limitations;
A legal review is necessary to determine whether the record requested is a public record;
The requestor has failed to comply with the Township's policy and procedure requirements;
The requestor refuses to pay the applicable fees; or
The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period.
Upon determination that one of the factors listed above applies, the Township shall send written notice to the requestor within five business days of receipt of the request for access. The notice shall include a statement notifying the requestor that the request for access is being reviewed, the reason for the review, a reasonable date that a response is expected to be provided and an estimate of applicable fees owed when the record becomes available. If the date that a response is expected to be provided is in excess of 30 days, following the five business days allowed for, the request for access shall be deemed denied unless the requestor has agreed, in writing, to an extension to the date specified in the notice. If the requestor agrees to the extension, the request shall be deemed denied on the day following the date specified in the notice if the Township has not provided a response by that date.
If the request is denied or deemed denied, the requestor may file an appeal with the Commonwealth's Office of Open Records within 15 business days of a deemed denial. The appeal shall state the grounds upon which the requestor asserts that the record is a public record and shall address any grounds stated by the Township for delaying or denying the request.
Within 30 days of the mailing date of the final determination of the appeals officer, the requestor or the Township may file a petition for review or other documents as required by rule of court with the Court of Common Pleas for Northampton County. The decision of the Court shall contain findings of fact and conclusions of law based upon the evidence as a whole. The decision shall clearly and concisely explain the rationale for the decision. A petition for review under this section shall stay the release of documents until a decision is issued.
This policy shall be available for review at the Township office or on the Township website.