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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PA Ombuds Steps In...

Welcome, Terry, a veteran FOI stalwart...

An East Stroudsburg native and former local reporter will play a key role in implementing Pennsylvania's most sweeping reform to government records access in 50 years.

Terry Mutchler was named by Gov. Ed Rendell as the first executive director of the Office of Open Records. The office was created as part of the new open records law approved this year by the state Legislature. Most law provisions take effect in January 2009.

Mutchler, who held a similar job in Illinois, said she was consulted by a Pennsylvania official about what changes were needed here to improve citizen and media access to state and local government documents.

"I was very surprised that Pennsylvania had the presumption that records were closed," she recalled during a visit Wednesday to Monroe County. "I said, 'You have to change the presumption.' The burden should be on the agency all the way to say why records shouldn't be open."

The new law does place the onus on government agencies to justify why records shouldn't be released, rather than on the requester to justify why the records should be provided. Mutchler calls this the most significant improvement to the state's open records law.

More here.

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