The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania  has determined that the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) can withhold the home addresses of individuals residing with former judges and law enforcement officers, but could not categorically exclude information for members over age 60.

After a Right to Know (“RTKL”) request was submitted to State Employees’ Retirement System (“SERS”) for the names and addresses of all retirees, or their beneficiaries if the retiree had died, who retired, received benefits, returned to service, and then retired again. SERS provided information for 158 retirees, but withheld information for all retired law enforcement officers and judges, and all beneficiaries if they or the retiree served in law enforcement or was a judge pursuant to RTKL § 708 (b)(6)(i)(C) — RTKL’s personal security exception.

SERS also denied access to information for all retirees over 60, and all retirees who had directly notified SERS of specific threats to their personal safety. SERS argued individuals over 60 were statistically more likely to suffer cognitive impairment and therefore are more likely to fall victim to financial fraud, exploitation, abuse, or theft.

The Requestor appealed SERS’decision to the Office of Open Records (“OOR’), which disagreed and subsequently directed SERS to provide the Requester with access to all responsive records except the home addresses of judges and law enforcement officers, and one retiree who had notified SERS of numerous death threats that were investigated by the state police.

In reversing the decision of the OOR, the Commonwealth court  found that OOR erred in denying the admission of testimony by 23 individuals in support of their assertion that their information is exempted by the personal security exception. The Court  also held that § 708(b)(6)(i)(C) does not exempt the disclosure of a law enforcement officer’s first name unless there is evidence of a substantial and demonstrable risk of harm to the officer’s personal security.

Click here to read: State Employees’ Retirement System v. Fultz, 206 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Cmmw. Ct. Jan. 9, 2015).

Edited by:

HJA for PAZ Website Hugh J. Algeo IV, Esq.