In this case, the Commonwealth Court was asked to apply the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) and determine whether financial information contained in contracts between state agencies and outside vendors is excluded from disclosure through RTKL requests. In reversing the Office of Open Records (“OOR”) final determination, the Court concluded that such information was specifically excluded under § 708(b)(26) and could be redacted by the responding state agency.
Requestor submitted a RTKL request to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) seeking certain records related to contracts between DOC and outside vendors. DOC responded by providing copies of contracts with these vendors, but with certain internal financial information redacted on the basis that this information was exempt from disclosure as a trade secret or confidential, proprietary information and constituted information of a bidder requested in an invitation to bid. Requestor appealed to the Office of Open Records, challenging DOC’s redaction of the financial information. Global Tel*Link (“GTL”), one of the outside vendors, submitted a request to participate, which was granted. GTL then submitted an unsworn statement/declaration stating the requested information was provided to DOC to demonstrate GTL’s economic capability as a prospective contractor and included GTL’s assets, income, cash, expenses, taxes, and other assets and liabilities.
OOR initially determined that the attachments to the contracts that contained GTL’s financial information were “part and parcel” of the contracts. It then concluded that the contracts constituted “financial records,” and did not qualify for the exception from disclosure for information of a bidder, pursuant to § 708(b)(26), because they were a contract. GTL appealed.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed, finding the redacted information was specifically exempt under § 708(b)(26). Specifically, the court highlighted the fact that GTL had submitted the information upon DOC’s request, the submission was in connection with DOC’s request for proposals, the submitted information was meant to demonstrate GTL’s ability to perform the contract, and the submission was made prior to DOC awarding the contract. Simply because the information was appended to the contract, the court concluded, it did not automatically become a contract. Therefore the material was not a “financial record.”
Click here to read: Global Tel*Link Corp. v. P. Wright & Prison Legal News, 1678 C.D. 2015 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Sep. 22, 2016).
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