Revised Open Records Law catching on, appeal records show

Before revisions of its Open Records law, Pennsylvania was 48th among the nation’s 50 states in transparency.

A few years into the new law, the state is now “about 25th,” according to Charles Brown, a senior attorney for the Office of Open Records who spoke to the Lycoming/Sullivan Counties Boroughs Association last week.

He said use of the new law is “exploding.”

Brown’s office had 2,188 appeals in 2012 to denials of open records requests, up 89 percent from 2009.

“Our caseload is exploding,” Brown told municipal officials.

While the state’s right-to-know law is generally thought of by the public as something in play primarily for media use, that’s only supposed to be one aspect of the law.

The right-to-know law exists for every citizen. Any legal U.S. citizens can request a public record and, believe it or not, “the vast majority of public officials want to do what they can for their constituents,” according to Brown.

Public records cover a broad array of information items and, remember, the government exists for the people, not the other way around.

Pennsylvania’s new Open Records law is far from perfect, but the accessibility available to citizens has improved greatly with the revisions.