The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court today put a stop to a practice that has arisen in the real estate settlement business since Pennsylvania's new Right to Know Law (RTKL) went into effect.
People were making requests to local agencies under the RTKL for tax records in the hands of the local Tax Collectors. The PA Office of Open Records sided with the businesses and ordered the agencies to get the records from the Tax Collectors and turn them over. Also, despite the fee charged by the Tax Collectors to the Agencies, the Agencies were only permitted to charge the requester a copying fee of $0.25/page.
Since the OOR began ruling this way, other requesters have started making similar requests for other purposes.
As above, the Commonwealth Court said the OOR is wrong. In fact, the Court said that those records in the hands of the Tax Collector are not accessible through the RTKL at all. If someone wants those records, they need to contact the Tax Collector and pay the fee.
This case builds on and interprets other RTKL cases having to do with when an agency (such as a school district) can be forced to get records in someone else's hands just so they can be turned over to a RTKL requester.
The case is R.K. Honaman, Jr. v. Twp. of Lower Merion, 2582 C.D. 2009 (2011) and can be found here.