On June 17, 2013, State Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-51) made a Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) request with the Pennsylvania State Police. Rep. Mahoney says that he is seeking to find out “the trooper complement at the Uniontown barracks, the number of unfilled vacancies and the potential number of retirees as of June 30.”
According to Rep. Tim Mahoney, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) cited “public safety” issues as the reason the law enforcement agency denied his verbal request for the same information that he now seeks in his RTKL request. Rep. Mahoney also said that he seeks the information to be able to ascertain whether the state budget addresses the funding and the staffing levels for the PSP.
There are indications that the pretext Rep. Mahoney provided for seeking the information (like so many other things he avers) is false. Firstly, top line PSP numbers for troop levels, retirements, vacancies, etc. would provide more than enough information to address state budget funding and staffing decisions. Secondly, the state budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 already has been passed. Thirdly, the item of a countywide, regional police force that has been supported by Rep. Mahoney in the past has been manipulated onto the county political agenda by the lapdog news media that howls for a new county prison to be built and simultaneously prints letters to the editor from Mahoney supporters who equate his RTKL request with support for a countywide, regionalized police force.
Rep. Mahoney is on record as having supported a regionalized, countywide police force in the past. In fact, he called for a countywide police force with an initial level of approximately 80. Police officers are unionized, public employees. Conservatively, at $100,000.00 per officer for pay, health care, pensions, training, insurance, equipment, etc., a force of 80 would cost $8,000,000.00 annually. Rep. Mahoney, however, provided no details as to where the funding for such a force would come.
Getting back to Rep. Mahoney’s RTKL request, we find that he assails the 30-day extension by the PSP to reply to his request as “a mere stalling tactic.” He does so without having waited the 30 days.
But we must ask what is all the Mahoney fuss about? The Right-To-Know Law (RTKL) that Mahoney voted for and took numerous victory laps over in 2007-2008 includes the very 30-day extension that he now complains about and characterizes as a “stalling tactic.” In fact, Sen. Dominic Pileggi’s Senate Bill 1 (SB1) which actually became the new RTKL includes a 30-day extension for an agency to comply with a request for records. Again, what is Rep. Tim Mahoney complaining about? He voted for the bill to become law.
Additionally, Rep. Mahoney cannot argue that, had his version (HB443) of Open Records been passed into law, the law would have been different and more conducive for citizens to obtain the records they seek. Mahoney’s bill was in many respects weaker than SB1. For example, in Pileggi’s SB1 the initial time period for an agency to reply to a request for records is five (5) business days. In Mahoney’s HB443, the initial time period for an agency to reply to a request for records was ten (10) days.
Moreover, contrary to those (Rep. Mahoney, the Lapdog-Standard, local blogger Julie Toye (Rants & Raves, 14 Jun 13), and Dan Visnauskas) who say that Rep. Mahoney should receive the records he seeks from the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), SB1 (which became the new RTKL) provides for certain exceptions.
Among those exceptions is the following (in bold):
(b) Exceptions. Except as provided in subsections (c) and (d), the following are exempt from access by a
requester under this act:
(1) A record the disclosure of which:
(i) would result in the loss of Federal or State funds by an agency or the Commonwealth; or
(ii) would be reasonably likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to or
the personal security of an individual.
(2) A record maintained by an agency in connection with the military, homeland security, national defense,
law enforcement or other public safety activity that if disclosed would be reasonably likely to
jeopardize or threaten public safety or preparedness or public protection activity or a record that is
designated classified by an appropriate Federal or State military authority.
Could Rep. Mahoney argue that under his version of Open Records this exception did not exist and the PSP records would not be exempt? Answer: He could, and he may; however, he’d be lying.
To wit, HB443 PN2800, the final version of Rep. Mahoney’s Open Records legislation in 2007, provided for the following exception in Section 307(6) (see bold):
29 Section 307. Records deemed inaccessible.
30 (a) Personal and institutional security.–Except to the
20070H0443B2800 – 17 -
1 extent disclosure is otherwise required by law or by this
2 section, the following records or parts of records pertaining to
3 personal and institutional security shall be deemed not to be
4 public records and are exempt from the access requirements of
5 this chapter:
20 (6) A record maintained by an agency in connection with
21 homeland security, national defense, the military, law
22 enforcement or another public safety activity based on a
23 finding by the agency head or designated deputy that
24 disclosure would be reasonably likely to jeopardize public
25 safety or preparedness.
So, in the end, we find that State Rep. Tim Mahoney has a problem with the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) actually citing an exception to the RTKL that not only Sen. Pileggi included in his bill that eventually became the new RTKL, but also a similar exception that Rep. Mahoney included in his own version of “Open Records” that allowed the PSP to determine whether “disclosure would be reasonably likely to jeopardize public safety or preparedness.”
Thus, on or before July 24, if the PSP denies Rep. Mahoney’s RTKL request, RTKL Requester Tim Mahoney has no one else to blame for not receiving the information, except Rep. Tim “Open Records” Mahoney (D-51).