Act Effective January 1, 2009
Policy No. 003-23 last updated on March 5, 2009.
The Philadelphia Gas Works has adopted a policy to comply with the Commonwealth’s Act 3 of 2008, 65 P.S. §§ 67.101 et seq., commonly known as the “Right to Know Law.” With certain exceptions, members of the public have the right to inspect and/or copy such records upon request.
A. Business day. Monday through Friday during regular business hours, except those days when PGW’s offices are closed for all or part of a day due to:
i. federal/state/PGW-recognized holiday;
ii. natural or other disaster; or
iii. the request or direction of local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies or officials.
B. Open Records Officer. Any official or employee of the Philadelphia Gas Works who is officially assigned responsibility for receiving, tracking and responding to requests for information under the Right to Know Law. The current Open Records Officer is:
Howard Lebofsky, Esquire
Assistant General Counsel,
Philadelphia Gas Works
800 W. Montgomery Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Telephone: (215) 684-6640
Fax: (215) 684-6798
The Philadelphia Gas Works may designate a Deputy or Secondary Open Records Officer to act in the absence of an Open Records Officer.
C. Philadelphia Gas Works (“PGW”). A collection of assets, real and personal, owned and operated by the City of Philadelphia.
D. Public Record. Any document that satisfies the general definition of “public record” set forth in the Law and does not fall within any of the exceptions set forth therein, as the definition and exceptions are amended from time to time and as the definition and exceptions are interpreted by state, federal and/or local courts.
E. Requester. A person who requests a record under the Right to Know Law.
F. Right to Know Law (or Open Records Law). Act 3 of 2008, 65 P.S. §§ 67.101 et seq., commonly known as the Right to Know Law (“Law”).
G. State Office of Open Records. The State Office, under the Department of Economic and Community Development, as explained in §1310 of the Right to Know Law. The Office of Open Records shall be responsible for many duties, which include (but are not limited to): issuing advisory opinions, training agencies and public employees, assigning appeals officers to review decisions and conducting a biannual review of fees allowed under the Law.
The Law requires that PGW act upon each non-anonymous written request when such request is made in person, by mail, by facsimile or by e-mail. The Law does not require that PGW act upon an oral request, and PGW shall refuse to accept oral requests. Furthermore, the Law does not require that PGW act upon an anonymous request, and PGW will refuse to honor an anonymous request.
Pursuant to the Law, the State Office of Open Records has created and published on its website a statewide form which must be accepted by PGW for the filing of a request. (http://openrecords.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt). The Law sets forth various specifications for the contents of a written request. The request must contain, at a minimum, the following information:
i. name of requester
ii. address of requester
iii. records being sought with “sufficient specificity” to allow PGW to ascertain which records are being requested.
Under the Law, PGW has a duty to make a good faith effort to determine if the record(s) requested is a public record and to respond as promptly as possible under the circum-stances existing at the time of the request; this time shall not exceed five (5) business days from the date the request is received by the agency’s Open Records Officer. The Law provides that either a final or interim response be provided to the requester within five (5) business days from the date of receipt by the agency. If the agency fails to respond within this five (5) day time period, the Open Records Request is deemed denied.
The Law and PGW’s policy contemplates that requesters will receive a response within five (5) business days. The Law, however, does provide PGW with specific reasons that may be invoked to receive a single extension of time which shall not exceed thirty (30) calendar days. If an extension is invoked and no response is provided to the requester within the thirty (30) day time period, the Open Records Request is deemed denied. Additionally, should PGW notify the requester that it needs more than the maximum thirty (30) day extension, the request is 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 specified in the notice if the agency has not provided a response by that date. PGW’s final response to a request will do one of the following:
i. grant the request;
ii. deny the request;
iii. grant the request in part and deny the request in part; or
iv. grant the request and redact part of the information provided pursuant to the Law and/or other applicable federal, state and local law.
III. APPEALS OF DENIED REQUESTS
If a request for access to a record is denied (in whole or in part) or deemed denied, the requestor may file an appeal with the State Office of Open Records with fifteen (15) business days of the mailing date of PGW’s denial. The appeal should state the grounds upon which the requester asserts the items requested are public and/or financial records under the Law; the appeal shall also address any grounds stated by PGW for denying the request.
Unless the requester agrees otherwise, the State Office of Open Records Appeals Officer shall make a final determination which shall be mailed to the requester and PGW within thirty (30) days of receipt of the appeal. Should the appeals Officer fail to issue a ruling within thirty (30) days, the appeal is deemed denied. Before a final determination is issued, a hearing may be held. The determination by the Appeals Officer shall be a final order. The Appeals Officer shall provide a written explanation of the reasons for the decision to the requester and PGW. Within thirty (30) days of the mailing date of the final determination of the Appeals Officer, a requester or PGW may file a petition for review or other document(s) as required by rule of court with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
IV. FEES AND CHARGES
Fees for duplication of records have been established and posted by the State Office of Open Records. PGW will charge $0.25 per page for photocopies, which is consistent with the State Office of Open Records regulations. PGW reserves the right to impose additional fees if it incurs costs for complying with a request, pursuant to the Right to Know Law; such additional fees, when charged, must be reasonable. This includes, but is not limited to, fees for enhanced electronic access and certified copies of documents.
V. WRITTEN POLICIES AND REGULATIONS
A. Generally. PGW and its Open Records Officer shall retain the discretion and authority to adopt any other written policies that are consistent with the Right to Know Law, and these policies, as amended from time to time, that they deem to be necessary or prudent, consistent with the Right to Know Law. Furthermore, the policy will be deemed amended to comply with the Right to Know Law.
B. Commonwealth Public Utility Law.
i. Proprietary information, trade secrets and competitively sensitive information. It is PGW policy to deny requests for proprietary information, trade secrets and competitively sensitive information. See: 66 P.S. 2212(t).
ii. Customer related information. It is PGW policy to treat customer information as confidential and not release it to third parties absent a valid subpoena or court order. See 66 Pa.C.S. § 1501 and 63 Pa.Code § 62.78 (which prohibits disclosure to third parties unless the customer is contacted and fails to object).
iii. Debt collection related information. PGW shall not communicate with any persons other than the customer, concerning the collection of the customer’s debt absent the customer’s permission, court order, or to effectuate a post judgment judicial remedy. Information concerning a customer’s account, account balance, amount owed and other information related to debt collection may not be produced absent a court order or to effect a post judgment judicial remedy. See Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act, 73 P.S. § 2270.4(b)(3).
C. Redaction of Information. PGW will not engage in redaction, refinement or other deletion or screening measures where it would not be possible to identify or segregate all of the information that should be redacted.