AP’s Request for State Troopers’ Off-Duty Employment Records Granted

The Commonwealth Court has affirmed the final determination of the OOR which directed the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to disclose supplementary employment request forms which state troopers submit to PSP to obtain approval for off-duty employment.  Pennsylvania State Troopers Association (PSTA) v. Scolforo, — A. 3d —-, 1623 C.D. 2010 (Pa.Cmwlth. 4/11/11).  PSP failed to show that public disclosure of redacted forms would endanger safety or reveal personal finances of state troopers.

A reporter for the Associated Press, Mark Scolforo, asked PSP to provide him with copies of records describing the types of outside work engaged in by PSP employees.  State troopers seeking outside employment must submit a form listing the employee’s name, social security number, mailing address, payroll title, PSP agency/bureau, work site, job duties and days and hours worked.  The OOR directed PSP to release the forms, but to redact the troopers’ social security numbers and mailing addresses.

PSP submitted evidence to the OOR in an attempt to show that the disclosure of the forms would endanger the lives of state troopers.  The Commonwealth Court found general testimony that state troopers are frequently threatened does not prove that public disclosure of the forms creates a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to state troopers, but permitted PSP to further redact information identifying the specific times and locations of off-duty employment.
PSTA argued that the supplementary employment request forms should not be released to the public because the forms contain personal identification information and are thus “deemed” non-public records.  Judge Butler explained the OOR has the authority to direct agencies to release otherwise non-public records, if redaction of personal identifiers renders the remaining information a public record.  Judge Butler’s analysis of this issue differentiates Judge Brobson’s argument in Department of Conservation and Natural Resources v. Office of Open Records, 1 A.3d 929 (Pa.Cmwlth.2010) that a record containing personal identification is not a “public record” as defined by the RTKL.  Id., 1 A.3d at 939.

Disclaimer:  This blog is maintained by the members of Nauman Smith’s Media and Right-to-Know Law practice group.  The members of this practice group represent both: 1) media entities, individuals and corporations seeking access to public records, and 2) local municipalities seeking to comply with the law.  THIS BLOG IS NOT MEANT TO BE USED AS LEGAL ADVICE.  The purpose of this blog is to provide educational material for individuals interested in Pennsylvania’s open records law, commonly referred to as the “Right-to-Know Law” or “RTKL”.  The opinions expressed by the individual members of the practice group are solely their own, and do not reflect the opinions of Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall, LLP, or the practice group as a whole.

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