HARRISBURG -- A Pennsylvania appeals court Tuesday sided with The Associated Press in a battle over public access to Gov. Tom Corbett's calendar entries and emails, saying his legal team failed to justify the redaction of certain information.
The seven-judge Commonwealth Court panel unanimously upheld a decision by the state Office of Open Records ruling that the governor's office must turn over the requested records without redacting portions that it claimed are protected by exceptions to the state Right-to-Know Law.
The AP sought records covering an 18-day period shortly after Mr. Corbett took office in 2011. The governor's office provided some records, but blacked out 17 emails and 28 calendar entries, including the subject of scheduled meetings on grounds that the information could suggest the nature of private internal deliberations that are exempt from disclosure under the law.
The open-records officer for the governor's office submitted an affidavit attesting that the redactions reflected "internal deliberations that preceded decisions related to subjects including the transition into the new administration, personnel, budgetary and policy decisions, related courses of actions and implementation of changes in the direction of the administration."
The court panel said that, while calendar entries can be exempt, the affidavit was not specific enough to justify exempting the records from disclosure.
"It is not enough to include in the affidavit a list of subjects to which internal deliberations may have related. The affidavit must be specific enough to permit the OOR or this court to ascertain how disclosure of the entries would reflect the internal deliberations on those subjects," Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer wrote in the panel's 15-page opinion.
A spokesman for the governor's general counsel said the ruling clarifies how calendar entries should be handled under the Right-to-Know Law.
"We will be complying with the court order and providing the records" within a matter of days, said the spokesman, Nils Frederiksen.
In a separate opinion that concurred with other aspects of the ruling, Judge Patricia McCullough said the Right-to-Know Law gives the open records office authority to hold hearings, but not to conduct private reviews.