This blog features case law related to real estate, land use, zoning, and municipal law in Pennsylvania

Tag: pa municipal law

Unsuccessful Infrastructure Improvement Proposals Not Disclosable Under RTKL

In this appeal from a final determination of the Office of Open Records (“OOR”), the Commonwealth Court weighed in on whether certain unsuccessful bids for public infrastructure projects were subject to disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”).  Specifically, the issue presented was whether a statute that ordered the public release of successful bidders, but was silent as to unsuccessful bidders, should be read to exclude unsuccessful bidders from disclosure, or whether the silence meant that the general requirements of the RTKL applied and disclosure was required.  In finding unsuccessful proposals were not public records, the Court differentiated standalone statutes and open ended versus closed ended statutes when applying the disclosure requirements of the RTKL.

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Evidence Supporting Exemption Not Necessary Where Request Clearly Falls Within RTKL Exemption

In this appeal from a final determination of the Office of Open Records, the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine whether an agency’s failure to present evidence in support of their claimed exemption from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL), amounted to a default determination requiring disclosure. In finding that it did not, the court held that where the plain language of a request falls within an exemption, additional evidence is unnecessary.

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Qualified Immunity Protects Officials From Retaliation Claims Based On Threats To Third Parties To Withdraw Political Support

Zaloga owned and operated a medical company that provided contracted services to correctional facilities. Upset over the handling of a dispute with a tire company located adjacent to his home, Zolaga launched political attacks against the Borough Council President and Mayor publically opposing their reelections. About a month after launching these attacks, Zaloga was notified that the County would not continue its contractual arrangement with Zolaga’s company after its current contract expired, but that it could compete with other providers for a new contract.  Zolaga’s attorney informed him however, that according to conversations with Lackawanna County Prison Board members the Council President and Mayor were attempting to block his contract renewal due to his persistent opposition to their decisions regarding the tire facility. Ultimately however, the County unanimously voted to award the contract to Zolaga’s company.  Zolaga then filed a complaint against the Borough of Moosic, the Borough Council, the Borough’s planning commission and zoning board, and various Borough officers alleging violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, which the District Court granted for all defendants except the Borough President. His assertion of qualified immunity, the Court concluded, hinged upon fact questions that would need to be settled by a jury. The Council President appealed.

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Financial Information In Outside Vendor Contracts Excluded From RTKL Disclosure

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.

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