Seeking information from Pittsburgh or Allegheny County? About half of formal requests are deemed ‘public records’

(Photo via iStock)
(Photo via iStock)

(Photo via iStock)

In the past four years, residents and journalists have filed at least 4,540 requests for public records with the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. About half the time, the city or county agreed to release all or some of the records.While the city granted more records than the county, city records came at a higher price. The city charged requesters a total of $13,000 in copying and other costs, showing its reliance on paper records. In all but six cases, the county released records at no cost and in digital format whenever requested.
According to a PublicSource analysis of public record requests:

    • The City of Pittsburgh agreed to release records 58 percent of the time.
    • The city charged an average of $36, when costs apply.
    • Requesters won 21 times in 79 appeals to the Office of Open Records [OOR].
    • Allegheny County released records 48 percent of the time.
    • Requesters won 27 times in 55 county cases before OOR.

The city provided records from January 2015 through early September 2018. The county provided records from late July 2015 through early October 2018.
The requests include high-profile cases like the Amazon HQ2 bid, which residents and the media sought from the city and county using Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law. The requests also pertain to more typical government functions, from the timing of traffic lights to the surveillance cameras placed around Pittsburgh.
In a response to a phone message requesting an interview, Pittsburgh’s open records officer Celia Liss wrote in an email: “We decide what to release and what not to release according to the text of the [law].”


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