“The annual report illustrates the sustained upward trajectory of the public’s interest in keeping its government accountable, effective and efficient,” Executive Director Terry Mutchler said while releasing Pennsylvania’s newest statistics during national Sunshine Week. “It’s a stunning indicator that even after five years of record highs, our caseload continues to increase.”
The OOR is an independent quasi-judicial office that currently has a staff of fifteen. Of those, seven attorneys resolved all 2,478 appeals in 2013. The mission of the OOR is to implement the Right-to-Know Law, authored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) and unanimously adopted by the Legislature in 2008.
In addition to adjudicating the nearly 2,500 appeals filed in 2013, the OOR handled over 20,000 telephone calls and e-mail inquiries and participated or monitored nearly 170 cases in the Courts of Common Pleas, Commonwealth Court, and Supreme Court. Additionally, the OOR has conducted nearly 800 trainings statewide since 2009 and responded to over 700 Right-to-Know Law requests filed with the OOR in 2013.
A snapshot of the report shows that 1,084 appeals were filed against state agencies and 1,394 appeals were filed against local agencies. While the report highlights the increased use of the RTKL by inmates, it distinctly validates the law’s success in allowing citizens to identify government waste and inefficiency and empowering them to require change.
“The Right-to-Know Law and OOR are effective tools that enable citizens to hold public officials and agencies accountable to the people they are responsible to serve,” Mutchler said. She added that Pennsylvania continues to emerge as a national leader in open government as it continues to rank as high as fifth in national transparency rankings.