In this decision out of Allegheny County the Commonwealth Court was presented with the question of whether the volunteering of time or services, and the permitting of temporary government use of property without compensation constitutes a “donation” to a government agency that falls under the donor exception to the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”). In reversing the final determination of the Office of Open Records (“OOR”), the court found that because there was no express limitation on the type of donations exempted from disclosure within the RTKL, such donations were exempt from disclosure.
White Buffalo, Inc. was awarded a contract to conduct a bow hunt on public and private properties within the Municipality to curb the local deer population. Gillen (“Requestor”) submitted a RTKL request to the Municipality seeking all communications related to the bow hunt contract. The Municipality granted the request in part, producing 131 pages of documents, but withheld 10 pages of emails related to individuals who had volunteered their services or the use of their property for the bow hunt. The Municipality claimed these documents were exempt from disclosure under the personal security exception and the donor exception to the RTKL. Requestor appealed the Municipality’s denial to the Office of Open Records (“OOR”), which issued a final determination granting the appeal and rejecting the Municipality’s claimed exceptions. The Municipality appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, which reversed the OOR’s final determination. The trial court found that the personal security exception was not applicable; however, the donor exception did apply and the records did not have to be disclosed. Requestor appealed.
On appeal the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s decision that the requested records were exempt from disclosure under the RTKL’s donor exception. It found the donor exception contained no express limitation on the types of donations to which it applied. Therefore the volunteering of time or services without compensation and the permitting of temporary government use of property qualified as “donations” that were protected from RTKL disclosure.