WEST MIFFLIN SANITARY SEWER MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY

RIGHT-TO-KNOW POLICY FOR PUBLIC RECORDS 

I.          Introduction

The West Mifflin Sanitary Sewer Municipal Authority (“Authority”) is a body corporate and politic, duly organized and existing under and pursuant to the former Municipality Authorities Act of 1945, repealed by Act 2001, June 19, P.L. 287, No. 22, § 3, now known as the “Municipality Authorities Act,” Act 2001, June 19, P.L. 287, No. 22, § 4, 53 Pa. C.S.A. § 5601 et seq.  As such, the Authority is a local agency for purposes of the new Right-to-Know Law.

            All local agencies shall provide public records in accordance with the Right-to-Know Law.  Therefore, any record in the possession of the Authority shall be presumed to be a public record, except in the following circumstances:

  1. (a)                the record is exempt under section 708 of the Right-to-Know Law;
  2. (b)               the record is protected by the attorney-work product doctrine, the attorney-client privilege or any other privilege recognized by the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (i.e., statute or case law); or
  3. (c)                the record is exempt from disclosure under any other federal or state law or regulation, or judicial order or decree.

A record, as defined under the Right-to-Know Law, is information, regardless of physical form or characteristics: a) that documents a transaction or activity of an agency; and b) that is created, received or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business or activity of the agency.  The term includes a document, paper, letter, map, book, tape, photograph, film or sound recording, information stored or maintained electronically, and a data-processed or image-processed document.  Nothing in the Right-to-Know Law shall be construed to require access to any computer of the Authority or that of any employee of the Authority.

  1. II.                  Requests and Associated Procedures

Requests for public records can be made by any person who is a legal resident of the United States.  Requests to the Authority can also be made by other local agencies, Commonwealth agencies, judicial agencies or legislative agencies.

The Authority will not accept any verbal or anonymous requests for access to records.  All requests for access to records shall be written and may be submitted in person, by mail, by e-mail or by facsimile.

The Authority has designated James P. Hannan to act as its Open-Records Officer (“Officer”).  The Officer’s contact information is as follows:

West Mifflin Sanitary Sewer Municipal Authority

1302 Lower Bull Run Road

West Mifflin, PA 15122 

Phone: 412-466-6070

Fax: 412-466-8170

wmssma@wmssma.org

All written requests must be addressed to the Officer.  The Officer is directed to receive requests submitted to the Authority under the Right-to-Know Law, direct requests to other appropriate persons, track the Authority’s progress in responding to requests and issue interim and final responses as set forth below.  In the event that a written request for records is addressed to an Authority employee other than the Officer, the Authority employee is hereby directed to promptly forward such requests to the Officer.

 

Written requests should identify or describe the records sought with sufficient specificity to enable the Authority to ascertain which records are being requested and shall include the name and address to which the Authority should address its response.  Unless otherwise required by law, a written request need not include any explanation of the requester’s reason for requesting the records or the intended use of such records.  A form which may be used to file a request is posted on the Authority’s internet website at www.wmssma.org.

Upon receipt of a written request for a public record, the Officer shall do the following:

  1. (a)                note the date of receipt on the written request;
  2. (b)               compute the day upon which the five-day period to provide a response (see below) will expire and make a notation of that date on the written request;
  3. (c)                maintain an electronic or paper copy of a written request, including all documents submitted with the request until the request has been fulfilled – if the request is denied, the written request shall be maintained for thirty (30) days or, if an appeal is filed, until a final determination is issued or the appeal is deemed denied; and
  4. (d)               create a file for the retention of the original written request, a copy of the response, a record of written communications between the Authority and the requester, and a copy of other communications.

In all circumstances, the requester must agree to pay all applicable fees authorized by the Right-to-Know Law including, but not limited to, fees related to duplication/copying (based upon prevailing fees for comparable duplication services provided by local business entities), certification and notarization, and postage (not to exceed the actual cost of mailing). If a separate statute authorizes the Authority to charge a set amount for a certain type of record, the Authority will charge no more than the statutory amount.  Except as otherwise provided by statute, no other fees may be imposed by the Authority unless the Authority necessarily incurs costs for complying with the request, and such fees must be reasonable.

            All applicable fees shall be paid by the requester before the requester receives access to the record(s) requested.  Furthermore, prior to granting a request for access to records in accordance with the Right-to-Know Law, the Authority may require a requester to prepay an estimate of the fees required to fulfill the request if those fees are expected to exceed $100.00.

            A record being provided to a requester shall be provided in the medium requested if it already exists in that medium on the date of receipt of the request; otherwise, it shall be provided in the medium in which it already exists.  In other words, the Authority shall not be required to create a record which does not currently exist or to otherwise compile, maintain, format or organize a record in a manner in which it does not currently compile, maintain, format or organize such a record.  Furthermore, although the Authority is required to provide access to public records in accordance with the Right-to-Know Law, it is not required to make those records available through electronic means, or provide access to any software or equipment in the possession of the Authority associated with the creation, analysis or interpretation of those public records.

As set forth above, the Authority may impose reasonable fees for official certification of copies of records if the certification is at the behest of the requester and for the purpose of legally verifying the public record(s).

 

III.       Authority’s Response

            Upon receipt of a written request for access to a record, the Authority shall make a good faith effort to determine if the record requested is a public record and whether the Authority has possession, custody or control of the requested record.  When doing so, the Authority will respond as promptly as possible under the circumstances existing at the time of the request.  Under the Right-to-Know Law, the Authority must send a response to the requester within five (5) business days of receipt of the written request for access or else the written request shall be deemed denied.  For purposes of this policy, a business day is any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, except those days when the Authority’s office is closed for all or part of a day due to a holiday, namely: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

            The Authority may deny a requester access to a record if the requester has made repeated requests for that same record and the repeated requests have placed an unreasonable burden on the Authority.

Extension of Time:

            Upon receipt of a written request for access to records, the Officer shall determine if one of the following applies:

(a)        the request for access requires redaction of a record/information in accordance with the Right-to-Know Law;

(b)        the request for access requires the retrieval of a record stored in a remote location;

(c)        a timely response to the request for access can not be accomplished due to bona fide and specified staffing limitations;

(d)        legal review is necessary to determine whether the record requested is a record subject to access under the Right-to-Know Law;

(e)        the requester has not complied with the Authority’s policies regarding access to records;

(f)         the requester refuses to pay applicable fees authorized by the Right-to-Know Law; or

(g)        the extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period of five (5) business days.

            Upon a determination that one of the factors listed above applies, the Officer shall send written notice to the requester within five (5) business days of receipt of the request for access.  The notice shall include a statement notifying the requester that the request for access is being reviewed, the reason for the review, a reasonable date that a response is expected to be provided, and an estimate of applicable fees owed by the requester when the record becomes available.  If the date that a response is expected to be provided is in excess of thirty (30) calendar days following the five (5) business days allowed for above, the request for access shall be deemed denied unless the requester has agreed in writing to an extension to the date specified in the notice.  If the requester agrees to the extension, the request shall be deemed denied on the day following the date agreed upon by the requester in writing if the Authority has not provided a response by that date.

IV.       Appeal of Authority’s Determination

            If a written request for access to a record is denied or deemed denied by the Authority, the requester may file an appeal with the Office of Open Records within fifteen (15) business days of the mailing date of the Authority’s response or within fifteen (15) business days of a deemed denial.  The appeal shall state the grounds upon which the requester asserts that the record is a public record and shall address any grounds stated by the Authority for delaying or denying the request.

The Office of Open Records has established an internet website with information relating to the Right-to-Know Law, including information on appeals, fees, advisory opinions and decisions, etc.  For information regarding the Office of Open Records, please contact the Office of Open Records at:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Office of Open Records

Commonwealth Keystone Building

400 North Street, Plaza Level

Harrisburg, PA 17120-0225

Phone:  717-346-9903

E-mail:  openrecords@state.pa.us

Website: openrecords.state.pa.us

 

Adopted:   March 12, 2009 by West Mifflin Sanitary Sewer Municipal Authority