Friday, June 12, 2009

Right to Know Applies to Volunteer Fire Companies

On April 3 of this year the Office of Open Records made a final determination on an appeal under the Right To Know Law. The matter was captioned as Scott Pierce v. Morris Township and Morris Township Volunteer Fire Company In the case, Pierce requested five different types of documents. The Township Solicitor responded that the documents requested were not in possession of the Township. An identical request was submitted by Pierce to the Fire Company. Again, the Solicitor responded to the request and this time stated that the Fire Company was not an agency under the act and, therefore, did not have to respond to the request.

An appeal was taken to the Office of Open Records in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Right to Know Law. The Office held that the fire company was an agency under the terms of the act and therefore, was required to produce the requested records.

This is an important ruling for all volunteer fire companies in Pennsylvania. They must be sure to comply with the provisions of the statute such as appointing an Open Records Officer, setting fees for copies, etc. I've started to work with several area fire companies on their compliance issues.


PA Boroughs said...

The PA Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee just reported today Senate Bill 851, which would exempt Volunteer Fire Companies from the Right to Know Law. One exception is if the fire company has a contract with a local agency to provide service.

Jeff O said...

Thanks for that information

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Carl F. Miller said...

The April 3, 2009 determination of the OOR stating that the Morris Township Fire Dept. must provide certain records to Scott Pierce (Scott Pierce v. Morris Township Fire Co. No. 2009-0116)was reversed on appeal in the Court of Common Pleas of Tioga County at No. 426 CV 2009). I have found no further information on this case, but if ay additional is obtained, please post it on this website.

C.F. Miller