1.02.014.002 - Right to Know Office and Guidelines for Records Requests
To implement fully the requirements of the Board of Trustees Policy on Public Access to College Records, it is necessary to designate a custodian of records. All requests for access to official records of the College as defined in the Right-To-Know Act will be addressed, in writing, to the Vice President for Community Relations and Development who will serve as the College’s Right to Know Officer. Upon receipt of a valid request the Vice President will coordinate with other College officials as may be necessary to produce access to the record(s) requested.
In the context of this procedure, the Vice President for Community Relations and Development will have the following responsibilities:
Receiving written requests for access to records on behalf of the College.
Developing and revising the form used to request records as well as the forms used in responding to requests for public records.
Making a good faith effort to determine whether each record requested is a public record in the context of the Right-to-Know Law.
Reviewing and responding to written requests in accordance with law, regulation, Board policy, and College Procedures.
Directing requests to other appropriate individuals in the College or to appropriate persons within another agency.
Tracking the College’s progress in responding to requests, including but not limited to noting the date of receipt on the written request, computing the day on which the five-day response expires and making a notation of that date on the written or electronic copy of the request.
Issuing interim and final responses to submitted requests, including computing the day on which the extension of a thirty day response period expires and making a notation of that date on the written request. If the written request for access to a record is denied, the mailing date of the Right-to-Know Officer’s response shall be noted on the written denial.
Maintaining a log of all record requests and their dispositions.
Maintaining a file for each request and all documents submitted with the request including but not limited to the original request, a copy of the response(s), a record of written communications with the requester, and a copy of any other communications. If the written request is denied, maintaining the written request for at least thirty (30) days or, if an appeal is filed, until a final determination is issued and the appeal period there from has expired.
Ensuring College staff are trained to perform assigned job functions relative to requests for access to records.
For purposes of compliance with the Right to Know Law, the following definitions will be applied:
Confidential Proprietary Information
Commercial or financial information received by the College from a third party which is privileged or confidential and for which disclosure would cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the party submitting the information to the College.
Any account, voucher, or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds or the acquisition, use or disposal of services, supplies, materials equipment or property; or the salary or other payments or expenses paid to an officer or employee, including the individual’s name and title; and a financial audit report, excluding the audit’s underlying work papers.
A record, including a financial record, that is not protected by a defined privilege or is not exempt from being disclosed under one of the exemptions in Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law or under other federal or state law or regulation or judicial decree or order.
Information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that documents a College transaction or activity and is created, received or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a College transaction, business or activity, including a document, paper, letter, map, book, tape, photograph, film or sound recording, information stored or maintained electronically and a data processed or image processed document.
Action by the College granting of access to a record or the College’s written notice to a requester granting, denying or partially granting and partially denying access to a requested record.
A legal resident of the United States who, or an agency which, requests access to a record.
Information, including a formula, drawing, pattern, compilation, including a customer list, program, device, method, technique or process that derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by other persons who can obtain economic value from its use or disclosure and is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. The term trade secret includes data processing software obtained by an Agency under a licensing agreement prohibiting disclosure.
Guidelines and Processes
Submitting a Request
To ensure the public is adequately informed of the College’s policies and procedures for compliance with the Right-to-Know Law, the procedures and processes for making a records request will made published in the College Catalog, Student Handbook, Employee Handbook and posted on the College’s web site along with the form to be used in submitting a records request. Requests for access to College records must be submitted in person, in writing, by fax or electronically when addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org using the required form.
Each request must include an identification or description of the requested record in sufficient detail to determine the nature of the record requested; the medium in which the record is requested and the name, address and contact information of the individual to receive the College’s response. Anonymous written requests, verbal and/or telephone requests for records will not be accepted.
Consistent with the requirements of the Right-to-Know Law, the College will facilitate a reasonable response to all records requests. However, the College will not create a record that does not exist nor compile, maintain format or organize a record in a manner which the College does not currently use. Additionally, the College will not provide extraordinary staff in response to any request received.
Timelines for Response
Upon receipt of an appropriate request, the Right-to-Know Officer will determine if the record requested is a public record and if the record requested is in the possession, custody, or control of the College. The individual requesting the record will receive an initial response within five (5) business days from the date the written request is received by the Right-to-Know Officer. The initial response will grant access to the requested record, deny access to the requested record, partially grant and partially deny access to the requested record or notify the requester of the need for an extension of time to respond fully. For purposes of this procedure, written notice will include notice sent by electronic mail or facsimile transmission.
Where it is determined that an extension of time is required to respond to a request as permitted in the law, the written response to the requester will be sent within the five (5) day response period. The response will note that the request for access is being reviewed, the reason the review requires an extension, a reasonable date when the response is expected, and if applicable, an estimate of applicable fees owed when the record becomes available. Review of the request will be limited to situations where:
- The record requested contains information which is subject to access as well as information not subject to access that must be redacted prior to granting access. The redacted information is considered a denial at to that information.
- The record requires retrieval from a remote location.
- A timely response cannot be accomplished due to bona fide and specific staffing limitations.
- A legal review is necessary to determine whether the record requested is a public record.
- The requester has failed to comply with the College’s policy and procedural requirements.
- The requester refused to pay the applicable fees.
- The extent or nature of the request is such that it precludes a response within the required time.
The extension period may be for up to thirty (30) days and does not require consent of the requester. If additional time beyond the thirty (30) days is required, the College may request written consent from the requester for an additional extension not to exceed thirty (30) days.
Granting the Request
Where it is determined that the record requested will be made available, the Right-to-Know Officer will inform the requester that access will be granted. Where the record requested requires an on-site, the requester will be informed of the regular working hours of the College and advised of where she/he may go to inspect the records or information requested. If the record is to be provided electronically, the requester will be provided with the public access site at which the record may be reviewed. The response will include a copy of the fee schedule and/or notice of a web link to the fee schedule, a statement that prepayment of fees is required if the anticipated cost is in excess of $100, and the medium in which the record will be provided.
To the extent possible, records will be made available in the medium identified by the requester provided the record exists in that form. Otherwise, is will be made available in its existing medium. In providing access to the record, the College will not permit access or use of its computers.
The Right-to-Know Officer may respond by notifying the requester that a record is available electronically through a publicly accessible source or that the College will provide access to inspect the record electronically. If, within thirty (30) days following receipt of the notice, the requester submits a written request to have the record provided in print form, the College will provide access in printed form within five (5) working days of from the receipt of the request for conversion to paper.
If it is determined that the record requested contains information both subject to and not subject to public access, the College will grant access to the public access information while denying access to the non-public information. Information not subject to public access requirements will be redacted from the record before inspection is permitted.
Upon notification of the availability of the record for delivery or inspection, the requester will be given sixty (60) days from the date of the College’s response to retrieve the record. If the record is not retrieved within this time period, the College will dispose of the copy and retain any fees paid to date.
Waiver of Exemption
Upon consultation with the College President, the College has the discretion to make an otherwise exempt record accessible for inspection and copying. All of the following must apply for an exemption to be considered.
- Disclosure of the record is not prohibited under any federal or state law or regulation our judicial order or decree;
- The record is not protected by a privilege; and
- The College President determines that the public interest favoring access outweighs any individual, agency, or public interest that may favor restriction of access.
Notification to Third Parties
When the College decides to produce a record that is not public in response to a request, the College will notify any third party that provided the record to the College, and person that is subject of the record and the requester. Such notice will be issued, in writing, within five (5) business days from the receipt of the record request. If the requested record contains a trade secret or proprietary information, written notification of the need for the thirty (30) day extension will also be made to the requestor. The written notice to any third party will advise that party of a five (5) business day time line from the date of receipt of the notification to provide the College with any input regarding the release of the record. Access to the portion of the record containing a trade secret or proprietary information will normally be denied unless the third party consents, in writing, to the release of the information and only after review by the College’s solicitor.
Denial of Request
Where the College denies a request for access to a record, either in whole or in part, the response denying the request will include the following information:
- A description of the record requested;
- Specific reasons for denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority;
- Name, title, business address, business telephone number and the signature of the Right-to-Know Officer on whose authority the denial is issued;
- Date of the Response; and
- Procedure for an appeal of the decision denying the request.
The Right-to-Know Officer may deny a request for access to record if the requester has made repeated requests for the same record and the repeated requests have placed an unreasonable burden on the College. A request may also be denied when timely access is not possible due to a disaster or when access may cause physical damage or irreparable harm to the record. To the extent possible, a record’s contents shall be made accessible even when the record is physically unavailable.
Right of Appeal
Where a request for a record is denied by the Right to Know Officer, the requester may appeal the determination through the Office of the President. Such appeal must be initiated in writing within ten (10) working days from the date of notification by the Right to Know Officer. If the appeal is denied by the President, the requester may file an appeal with the State’s Office of Open Records within fifteen (15) business days of the mailing or transmittal date of the response noting denial from the College.
As permitted by the Right-to-Know Law, the College will charge fees associated with the production of records for viewing by the requester. These fees will be as authorized in the schedule issued by the State’s Office of Open Records.