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Wayne County adopts open records law

By TOM KANE

HONESDALE, PA - The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has taken another step toward greater transparency of government by enacting a new open records law. The law is called Act Three of 2008, the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law.

The Wayne County Commissioners adopted a local version of the law on December 22, 2008 and named chief clerk Vicky Lamberton to the position of public information officer. The law took effect on January 1, subject to approval by the state Office of Open Records.

“Many of our agencies and departments handle record requests from the public as an ordinary course of business,” Lamberton said. “This policy is not intended to preclude or limit continued access to those records. Each office will continue to assist the public as part of their agency’s business.”

If a request is made for a record that an office determines is not “ordinary” in nature and/or if a requester wishes to do so, the request is made to the Office of Open Records under the state’s Right-to-Know Law, she said.

This new law does not supercede the laws applying to court records, Lamberton said. “The practice of the court stands,” she said. Court records, however, having to do with personnel, contracts or financial matters are covered by this new law.

“What’s different about this policy is that the burden of proof that a document cannot be shown or copied falls upon the office or department,” said commissioner Wendell Kay. “Under this new law, the requester of information no longer has to prove that the record is needed or essential.”

Requests must be made in person, by email or by fax, Lamberton said. “Requests over the phone will not be honored.” A requester who wishes to appear in person will find Lamberton in the commissioners office in the Wayne County Court House in Honesdale.

The county Office of Open Records has established a modest fee structure in accordance with the PA Office of Open Records. The information is available on the Wayne County Office of Open Records web page and may be amended from time to time, she said. The normal response time to a request is five days, she said.

An appeal of a decision denying access to a record by the county can be sent to the PA Office of Open Records. An appeals officer will be assigned by that office.

The county’s Office of Open Records can be reached by email at openrecords@co.wayne.pa.us or by phoning 570/253-5970.

TRR photo by Tom Kane
Wayne County chief clerk Vicky Lamberton is Wayne County’s new public information officer. (Click for larger version)