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Township of Bear Creek, PA
Luzerne County
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Bear Creek Township is intending to comply with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Open Records Law[1] and, in doing so, drafts a policy for the public viewing, copying and receiving of public records of the Township.
[1]
Editor's Note: See 65 P.S. § 67.101 et seq.
For purposes of this article, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
PUBLIC RECORDS
Any account, voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds by Bear Creek Township, use or disposal of services or of supplies, materials, equipment, or other property and any minute, order or decision by Bear Creek Township, or agent thereof, fixing the personal or property rights, privileges, immunities, duties or obligations of any person(s). "Public records" shall not include any report, communication or other record or paper, the publication of which would disclose the institution, progress or result of any investigation, and/or litigation undertaken by Bear Creek Township or its agents in the performance of its official duties. It shall also not include any record, document, material, exhibit, pleading, report, memorandum or other paper, access to or the publication of which is prohibited, restricted or forbidden by statute law or order or decree of court, or which would operate to the prejudice or impairment of a person's reputation or personal security, or which would result in the loss by the Township of federal funds, excepting therefrom, however, the record of any conviction for any criminal act.
RECORD
Any document maintained by an agency, in any form, whether public or not.
REQUESTER
A person who is a resident of the commonwealth and requests a record pursuant to this article.
RESPONSE
Access to a record or an agency's written notice granting, denying or partially granting and partially denying access to a record.
A. 
General rule. Unless otherwise provided by law, a public record shall be accessible for inspection and duplication by a requester in accordance with this policy. A public record shall be provided to a requester in the medium requested if the public record exists in that medium; otherwise, it shall be provided in the medium in which it exists. Public records shall be available for access during the regular business hours of Bear Creek Township. Nothing in this article shall provide for access to a record which is not a public record.
B. 
Requests. Bear Creek may, but is not required to fulfill verbal requests for access to records and anonymous requests for access to records. In the event that the requester wishes to pursue the relief and remedies provided for in this policy of the Township or under Pennsylvania Law, the requester must initiate such relief with a written request.
C. 
Written requests. A written request for access to records may be submitted in person, by mail, or by facsimile to the Township Office. A written request shall be addressed to the Secretary/Treasurer of Bear Creek Township. A written request should identify or describe the records sought with sufficient specificity to enable the agency to ascertain which records are being requested and shall include the name and address to which the Township should address its response. A written request need not include any explanation of the requester's reason for requesting or intended use of the records.
D. 
Creation of a public record. When responding to a request for access, Bear Creek Township shall not be required to create a public record which does not currently exist or to compile, maintain, format or organize a public record in a manner in which the agency does not currently compile, maintain, format or organize the public record.
E. 
Conversion of an electronic record to paper. If a public record is only maintained electronically or in other nonpaper media, the Township shall, upon request, duplicate the public record on paper when responding to a request for access in accordance with this policy.
F. 
Retention of records. Nothing in this article is intended to modify, rescind or supersede any record retention and disposition schedule established pursuant to Pennsylvania Law.
G. 
Redaction. If the Township determines that a public record contains information which is subject to access as well as information which is not subject to access, the Township's response shall grant access to the information which is subject to access and deny access to the information which is not subject to access. If the information which is not subject to access is an integral part of the public record and cannot be separated, the Township Secretary/Treasurer shall redact from the public record the information which is not subject to access, and the response shall grant access to the information which is subject to access. The Township may not deny access to the public record if the information which is not subject to access is able to be redacted.
H. 
Fees. The Township shall set forth a fee schedule for the copying of public records. All fees shall be paid prior to the release of the public record. In the event the fees are not paid at prior to the release of the public record, the Township Secretary/Treasurer is not required to release the record.
I. 
Employee records. Employee records are confidential records and do not fall under the category or definition of a "public record." The employee has the right to examine his or her own personal record with reasonable advance notice, and, if need be, the right to add a responsive statement to the record or document in question. An employee's file and personnel record may contain official records of disciplinary action or reprimands.
A. 
General rule. Upon receipt of a written request for access to a record, the Township shall make a good faith effort to determine if the record requested is a public record and to respond as promptly as possible under the circumstances existing at the time of the request but shall not exceed five business days from the date the written request is received by the Township Secretary/Treasurer. If the Township fails to send the response within five business days of receipt of the written request for access, the written request for access shall be deemed denied.
B. 
Exception. Upon receipt of a written request for access, if the Township determines that one of the following applies: the request for access requires redaction of a public record in accordance with § 6-56G; the request for access requires the retrieval of a record stored in a remote location; a timely response to the request for access cannot be accomplished due to bona fide and specified staffing limitations; a legal review is necessary to determine whether the record is a public record subject to access under this article; the requester has not complied with the Township's policies regarding access to public records; or the requester refuses to pay applicable fees authorized by § 6-56H of this policy, the Township shall send written notice to the requester within five business days of the Township Secretary/Treasurer's receipt of the request for access. The notice shall include a statement notifying the requester that the request for access is being reviewed, the reason for the review and a reasonable date that a response is expected to be provided. If the date that a response is expected to be provided is in excess of 30 days, following the five business days allowed for in Subsection A, the request for access shall be deemed denied.
C. 
Denial. If the Township's response is a denial of a written request for access, whether in whole or in part, a written response shall be issued and include:
(1) 
A description of the record requested.
(2) 
The specific reasons for the denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority. If the denial is the result of a determination that the record requested is not a public record, the specific reasons for the Township's determination that the record is not a public record shall be included.
(3) 
The typed or printed name, title, business address, business telephone number and signature of the public official or public employee on whose authority the denial is issued.
(4) 
Date of the response.
(5) 
The procedure to appeal the denial of access under this article.
D. 
Certified copies. If Township's response grants a request for access, the Township Secretary/Treasurer shall, upon request, provide the requester with a certified copy of the public record if the requester pays the applicable fees.