Are Your Documents Burdensome To Find?
I was reading a recent Pennsylvania court appeals ruling that the Department of Environmental Protection must release documents to the Scranton Times-Tribune in response to an open records request regardless of whether it is hard for the agency to the find the records in its files. The three judge panel agreed with an earlier decison by the state's Office of Open Records and found that the DEP cannot deny a sufficiently specific request under the state's Right to Know Law because the document would be burdensome for the agency to find. Clearly, the problem of paper and retrieving documents is becoming a insurmountable and costly problem and the courts are not going to let government agencies off the hook for their responsiblities.
Judge Anne E. Covey wrote in the opinion, "An agency's failure to maintain the files in a way necessarry under the RTKL (Right to Know Law), should not be held against the requestor. To so hold would permit an agency to avoid its obligations under the RTKL simply by failing to orderly maintain its records."
It sets forth a statement, loud and clear, of what is expected of a public agency when responding to a request for records. The agencies now must maintain and keep in order all of their records. The courts of Pennsylvania are making their stance known that they are not going to look kindly on an excuse that it's just too burdensome.
I read this aricle and can not help but feel empathy for the government or state agency that must produce the requested record. I can picture in my mind the storeroom deep in some basement. I see the person physically searching through piles of boxes and file cabinets.
Many of the state agencies we work with have resolved the document retrieval problem by scanning all of their back log and day forward files. Imagine, taking a request for information, and quickly searching on a computer for it, pulling it up , and instantly emailing to the the requestor. All I can think of is the hours of search time that has been dramatically reduced and the cost savings involved. Check out our link to our scanning services to learn how easy and cost effective it is to scan your files.