In compliance with 65 P.S. §§ 66.1 et seq. as amended, this policy statement provides guidelines for submitting Right-to-Know Requests and outlines the procedure involved in processing such requests and providing prompt responses.
- Requests for information under the Right-to-Know Law must be submitted in writing to the designated Right-to-Know Officer. A request may be delivered in person or via letter. NORTHAMPTON COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY (NCHA) will not respond to oral requests, facsimile, electronic mail or other forms of communication.
- NCHA will not respond to anonymous requests for information.
- In accordance with the Act, NCHA will provide a requester with access to a public record only if the requester is an individual who is a resident of Pennsylvania. The Act does not require an agency to respond to requests from corporations, even if the corporation was created under the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Each request must include the name of the requester and the address to which the response will be delivered. The request should identify and describe the records sought with sufficient specificity to enable NCHA to ascertain which records are being requested.
- The Right-to-Know Officer may ask the requester the reason for the request or the intended use of the records in order to help identify the records of actual relevance to the requester. NCHA cannot insist that such a statement be provided, nor can it use the lack of such a statement as a reason for denying the request. A failure to provide such statement, however, may result in undue delay in fulfilling the request.
Submission of Right-to-Know Requests
- All requests to NCHA under the Right-to-Know Law will be submitted in writing to:
Daniel C. Beers, Executive Director
Northampton County Housing Authority
15 S Wood Street
Nazareth, PA 18064
- Requests may be delivered in person to the address listed above or sent by mail. If a request is delivered to someone other than a Right-to-Know Officer, it shall be forwarded to the Right-to-Know Officer in a reasonable time. The ten (10) business day period for a response to the requests begins once the designated Right-to-Know Officer receives the request. The Right-to-Know Officer will inform the requester of receipt of the request, including the date the request was deemed received.
Receipt of a Right-to-Know Request
- Upon receipt of a written request, NCHA will make a good faith effort to determine if the requested record is a public record and to respond as promptly as possible under the circumstances existing at the time of the request.
- This time should not exceed ten (10) business days from the date the written request is received by the Right-to-Know Officer. If NCHA fails to respond within that time period, the request is a “deemed denial”.
- The Right-to-Know Officer shall send written notice to the requester within ten (10) business days of the need for an extension. The notice shall include a statement notifying the requester that the request for access is being reviewed, the reason for the review, and a reasonable date a response can be expected.
Processing Right-to-Know Requests
Upon receiving a written Right-to-Know request, the Right-to-Know Officer shall complete the following tasks:
- Date stamp the request;
- Assign a tracking number to the request;
- Compute the day on which the ten (10) business day period will expire and make notification of that date;
- Inform the requester of the receipt of the request;
- Make electronic or paper copy of the request, including all documents submitted including the envelope, if any, in which it came; and
- Create an official file for the retention of the original request.
For the purposes of determining the ten (10) business days:
- A business day shall be any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, except those days that the offices of NCHA are closed for all or part of a day due to a holiday, severe weather, a natural, or other disaster, or due to the request or direction of law enforcement agencies or officials.
- Requests may be submitted during regular business hours which are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Requests received after 4:00 p.m. will be deemed to have been received on the following business day.
- For the purposes of determining the end of the ten (10) business day period, the day that a request is received (or deemed to be received) is not counted; the first day of the ten (10) business day period is the agency’s next business day.
- The Right-to-Know Officer may opt to provide an interim response on or before the last day of the ten (10) business days period for certain enumerated purposes. Such will not constitute a “deemed denial”.
- Upon receiving a written Right-to-Know request, the Right-to-Know Officer shall complete the following tasks:
An interim response may be sent on or before the last day of the ten (10) business day period to extend the period for a final response. This interim response must notify the requester that the request is being reviewed, must state a reasonable date that the final response is expected to be provided, and must set forth one of the following reasons justifying the need for additional time”
- The request requires redaction of a public record;
- The request requires the retrieval of records storage in a remote location from one or more “Record Custodians”;
- A final response within the ten (10) business day period cannot be accomplished due to bona fide and specified staffing limitations;
- A legal review is necessary to determine if a records is a public record subject to access under the Right-to-Know Law;
- The requester has not complied with NCHA’s policies regarding access to public records; and/or
- The anticipated cost of complying with the Right-to-Know request exceeds one hundred dollars ($100) and the requester has not pre-paid such amount. If NCHA requires pre-payment then the time for issuance of a final response shall be tolled from the time the demand for pre-payment is made until such time as a payment is actually received.
- If an interim response is issued, then a final response should be sent within thirty (30) calendar days from the end of the ten (10) business day period. Failure to comply with the thirty (30) calendar days time limits will result in the Right-to-Know request being a “deemed denial”.
- If the anticipated costs of complying with the Right-to-Know requests exceeds one hundred dollars ($100) and the requester does not pay the amount within thirty (30) calendar days after he or she is informed to do so, the Right-to-Know request will be considered withdrawn.
- An interim response may be sent on or before the last day of the ten (10) business day period to extend the period for a final response. This interim response must notify the requester that the request is being reviewed, must state a reasonable date that the final response is expected to be provided, and must set forth one of the following reasons justifying the need for additional time”
The Right-to-Know Officer shall conduct the review of each Right-to-Know request according to the following intake procedure:
The review of the Right-to-Know request to determine whether an exception to the request applies, which should be a basis for rejecting the Right-to-Know request in whole or in part, including but not limited to:
- The requesting party is not a resident of the Commonwealth;
- Lack of specificity;
- The requested records are not within the definition of the Right-to-Know law as a public record
- The Right-to-Know Officer has personal knowledge of the requested records are not in the possession or control of NCHA; and/or
- There is no public record available: NCHA is not required to create a public record that does not exist already, nor is NCHA required to compile, maintain, format or organize a public record in a manner in which the agency does not currently do so.
- Determine whether the Right-to-Know request must be granted in whole or in part without further consideration;
- Draft any response denying or granting access to identified records as necessary;
- Review any questions with counsel as necessary;
- Draft written instructions to the Records Custodian regarding compliance with the Right-to-Know request as necessary; and/or
- Determine if the anticipated costs of complying with the Right-to-Know request will exceed one hundred dollars ($100) and if pre-payment will be required, and if so,
- Present the requester with a demand for pre-payment.
- The review of the Right-to-Know request to determine whether an exception to the request applies, which should be a basis for rejecting the Right-to-Know request in whole or in part, including but not limited to:
- If the Right-to-Know Officer does not deny the Right-to-Know request in its entirety, the Right-to-Know Officer shall forward the request, or relevant portions, to the appropriate Custodian of Records. Once the Right-to-Know Officer forwards the request, it shall be the responsibility of each Record Custodian to conduct a good faith investigation to determine if he or she has custody of any of the requested records.
As documents may or may not be located on NCHA premises, there may be multiple possible Record Custodians for a requested record. Therefore, it shall be the responsibility of each such Custodian to promptly inform the Right-to-Know Officer whether he or she has possession of any of the requested records, and, if so, the estimated costs of providing such records. If any potential Custodian knows or believes that another official, employee, or agent of NCHA has possession of the requested records, he or she shall forward the request to that person and shall inform the Right-to-Know Officer of this immediately.
The Right-to-Know Officer shall issue a final response within the aforementioned time periods, which shall be:
- Denied; or
- Granted in part and denied in part.
If a request is denied, in whole or in part, the Right-to-Know Official must specify the following in the response:
- A description of the records requested;
- Specific reasons for the denial including a citation of supporting legal authority if based on the determination the record is not a public record and the specific reasons for such determination;
- The typed or printed name, title, business address, business telephone number, and signature of the Right-to-Know Officer on whose authority the denial is issued;
- The mailing date of the response; and
- The procedure to appeal the denial of access under the Right-to-Know Law
- The Right-to-Know Officer shall conduct the review of each Right-to-Know request according to the following intake procedure:
This responsive denial is called a “drafted denial”.
The Right-to-Know Law Exception Process
- If an individual wants to appeal the decision of the Right-to-Know Officer, her or she may draft an “Exception” to the decision of the Officer;
- All Right-to-Know Exceptions to a “drafted denial” must be submitted in writing within fifteen (15) business days of the mailing date of the denial to NCHA’s Right-to-Know Exceptions Unit;
- All Right-to-Know Exceptions to a “deemed denial” must be submitted in writing within fifteen (15) calendar days of the date the denial would have been due to the individual;
- All Exceptions may be sent via First Class Mail, Registered Mail, overnight Mail, or delivered by hand. Electronic Mail and/or Facsimile will not be accepted;
- Exceptions sent by U.S. Mail will be deemed accepted on the date of the postmark. Hand delivered mail shall be deemed accepted on the date that it is received by the Exceptions Officer. If sent via mail other than through U.S. Mail, the mailing date is deemed to be the date the Exceptions are received by the Exceptions Officer;
- All Right-to-Know Exceptions must be addressed to the Right-to-Know Exceptions Unit:
Northampton County Housing Authority
Right-to-Know Exceptions Officer
15 S Wood St
Nazareth, PA 18064
The Exceptions must include:
- Records requested;
- A copy of the denial;
- Any and all grounds upon which the requester asserts that the record is a “public records”; and
- Shall address any grounds stated by the agency for delaying or denying the request.
- Any grounds or issues not raised within the fifteen (15) day time frame of an Exception shall be deemed waived and may be disregarded by the agency; any failure to comply with this Exception process may waive the appellate process and the appeal shall be deemed ineffective.
- The determination by the Exceptions Officer shall be deemed a final order. The Exception Officer shall provide a written explanation as to the reason for the decision to the requester and the agency.
The following fees shall be applicable to all Right-to-Know requests;
- A photocopy is a single-sided copy or one side of a double-sided copy;
- The charge for a standard 8.5 x 11 page is $.15;
- A regular page other than 8.5 x 11 shall be charged at $.20 per page.
- A diskette shall be charged at $1.00 per diskette
- A CD shall be charged at $1.00 per CD.
Charges for other services and materials will be determined on a case by case basis based upon applicable costs to NCHA. This includes, but is not limited to, charges for the following:
- Microfilm/Microfiche of other forms of copies;
- Redaction based on hourly wage and benefits;
- User fee for printing or copying records from NCHA computers;
- Certification of copies;
- Employee time for compiling and printing requested records based on hourly wages and benefits;
- Employee time of Record Custodian(s) for compiling electronic information or general information based on hourly wage and benefits;
- Computer time for compiling requested records.
- The Right-to-Know Officer may require a requester to pre-pay if the fees required to fulfill the request are expected to exceed approximately one hundred dollars ($100).
- If further appeals by either party are warranted, such must be effectuated through the courts and/or through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records.