Office of the Governor v. Raffle
Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
No. 1168 C.D. 2012
April 24, 2013
The Commonwealth Court ruled that the Right to Know Law does not exempt from disclosure the governor’s home address or the middle names of employees of the Office of the Governor.
The court, however, determined that government-issued cell phone numbers of Office of the Governor employees need not be disclosed pursuant to the RTKL’s personal identification information exemption.
Andy Raffle submitted an RTKL request to the Office of the Governor for (1) the address of Gov. Tom Corbett’s home in Shalor Township, and (2) the full name (including middle names), county of residence and government-issued cell phone number of 56 employees of the governor’s office.
The Office of the Governor denied the request in full, citing the personal security and personal identification information exemptions of the RTKL
Raffle appealed to the Office of Open Records (OOR), which ordered the disclosure of all requested records.
The OOR ruled that home addresses are not protected from disclosure under the personal identification information exemption; that releasing the middle names alone does not present a “substantial and demonstrable risk of harm” to the employees; and that government-issued cell phone numbers do not fall under the “personal telephone number” exemption where such phones are used for carrying out agency business. The Office of the Governor appealed to the Commonwealth Court.
Commonwealth Court decision
The court first ruled that the governor’s personal address is not exempt under the RTKL.
The court noted that it had held in Office of the Lieutenant Governor v. Daniel Mohn, (Pa.Cmwlth. No. 1167 C.D. 2012, filed April 24, 2013), that “there was no constitutional right to privacy in a home address and that the personal security exemption does not preclude the release of a government employee’s home address” based upon the evidence provided by the Office of the Governor.
Next, the court ruled that government employees’ middle names are also not exempt from disclosure under the RTKL. The court reasoned that people “routinely disclose their names … to all manner of public and private entities,” and, as such, “cannot reasonably expect” their middle names to be kept private.
Further, the court determined that the release of an employee’s middle name, even with the release of the same employee’s address, would not reasonably result in “a substantial and demonstrable risk of harm to the personal security of the individual.” In so holding, the court rejected a “conclusory” affidavit to the contrary provided by the Office of the Governor.
Finally, the court ruled that the government-issued cell phone numbers fall under the RTKL provision that exempts from disclosure “a record containing all or part of a person’s … cellular or personal telephone numbers.”
Disagreeing with the OOR’s contrary conclusion, the court stated: “The fact that government business may be discussed over an employee’s government-issued personal cellular telephone does not make that telephone any less ‘personal’ within the meaning of the RTKL.”
- April 24, 2013 — Commonwealth Court Opinion – No. 1168 C.D. 2012
- April 24, 2013 — Commonwealth Court Opinion – No. 1167 C.D. 2012