McClintock v. Coatsville Area School District
Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
No. 1262 CD 2012
August 9, 2013
The Commonwealth Court determined that when an agency fails to respond to a Right to Know Law request within the time mandated under the law, the agency still may argue that the requested records are exempt from disclosure under the RTKL if the requester files an appeal.
Robert McClintock submitted four Right to Know Law requests for records to the Coatsville Area School District.
The district did not respond within five days as required by the law. The requests therefore were deemed denied.
McClintock appealed to the Office of Open Records.
During the appeals process, the district agreed to provide some of the records requested, stated that some of them did not exist, and stated that the other records were exempt under various provisions of the RTKL.
The OOR ruled that district could raise the exemptions on appeal even though it had failed to respond to McClintock’s requests. McClintock appealed to the trial court, which affirmed the ruling.
McClintock then appealed to the Commonwealth Court.
Commonwealth Court Decision
On appeal, McClintock argued that the district waived its right to raise exemptions under the RTKL because it failed to respond to his request within five days as required by the law.
The Commonwealth Court disagreed, concluding that a “deemed denial” does not waive an agency’s right to raise new grounds for denying the request if the requester appeals the denial.