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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Budget cut will 'gut the progress' of Penn. Office of Open Records

Terry Mutchler, Pennsylvania's first executive director of the Office of Open Records, says the projected budget cuts will defeat the purpose of the newly created office. The office is expecting to be underfunded by $300,000. With such a cut, staff will have to be let go, and more and more citizens will have no option (other than going to court, if they can afford it) for contesting a denial of requested records. Since May 2009, the office has processed about 600 appeals, 2,400 e-mails, 1,200 phone calls and conducted more than 200 FOI training sessions with nine staffers. Some decisions have gone to court, which requires full-time legal attention. "But the reality is that the office is in its infancy and does not have fat to cut. This is not just cutting money -- it's cutting the commitment to ensuring open and honest government."

All is not well at Pennsylvania's new Office of Open Records.

As its first executive director, that is a very difficult but necessary truth to express. I am asking citizens and other open-government advocates for their help. We are at a cross-roads and it is only fair that citizens have an accurate and honest picture of what's happening with this portion of their government.

Pennsylvania rewrote its archaic Right-to-Know Law and created an independent office to resolve records disputes. As of Jan. 1, all records of the government were presumed to be open. Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi championed this cause, and I applaud them for pulling Pennsylvania out of the dark ages.

More here.

See also, Budget cuts threaten disclosure

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