DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Procedures Applicable to Right-to-Know Requests
[34 Pa.B. 1631]
This written policy identifies the procedures for requesting records from the Department of Health (Department) under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law (RTKL), 65 P. S. §§ 66.1--66.9. This policy supplements Management Directive 205.36 as amended. This policy replaces procedures for requesting records previously issued by the Department at 32 Pa.B. 6399 (December 26, 2002).
1. A request to the Department made under the RTKL must be in writing and must:
a. Identify the requester by name.
b. Aver whether the requester is a resident of this Commonwealth.
c. Identify a return mailing address.
d. Expressly state that the request is being made under the RTKL (65 P. S. §§ 66.1--66.9).
e. Bear the requester's signature or the signature of an individual authorized to make the request for the requester.
2. RTKL requests must be sent or delivered by mail, hand delivery or facsimile transmission. Other than facsimile transmission, no electronic transmission is acceptable. The Department will not accept verbal requests.
3. RTKL requests must be sent or delivered to: Director, Communications Office, Department of Health, 808 Health and Welfare Building, P. O. Box 90, Harrisburg, PA 17108-0090, fax: (717) 772-6959.
4. If a RTKL request is sent to a Department office other than the Communications Office, that office may return the request to the requester and inform the requester that the request must be sent to the Communications Office.
5. The regular business hours of the Communications Office are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Any RTKL request received by the Communications Office after the close of regular business hours shall be deemed to have been received by that office on the following business day. For example, a facsimile transmission received at 10 p.m. on a Friday is deemed to be received on the following Monday (unless that Monday is a non-business day. Paragraph 8 defines a business day.
6. Only a resident of this Commonwealth is entitled access to public records under the RTKL. In determining whether a requester is a resident of this Commonwealth, the Director of the Communications Office (Director) may require the requester to provide proof of residency.
7. A RTKL request may be denied if it does not identify the records requested with sufficient specificity. In conducting an initial review of a RTKL request, the Director may contact (or attempt to contact) the requester to obtain clarification or additional information to aid the Director in responding to the request. The request should contain a telephone number, fax number or e-mail address where the Director may reach the requester.
8. The Director shall make a final or interim response to a RTKL request within 10 business-days after receiving the request. A business day does not include a Saturday or Sunday, a day when the offices of the Department are closed for all or part of a day due to a State holiday, partial and full day closings of State offices under management directives, a day when the offices of the Department are closed due to a natural disaster or a day when Department offices are closed at the request or direction of a local, State, or Federal law enforcement agency or official. For purposes of determining the end of the 10-business-day period, the day a RTKL request is received (or deemed received) is not counted.
9. A response that denies a request (either in whole or in part) will list all of the specific reasons relied on by the Director for denying the request and will include one or more citations of supporting authority. If a reason for denial is a determination that an identified document is not a public record, the specific reason for that determination will be included.
10. In the event that the Director's final response is a denial or a partial denial, the response to the requester will contain: (1) the typed or printed name, title, business address, business telephone number and signature of the public official or employee on whose authority the denial is issued; (2) a notice informing the requester of his or her right to file exceptions with the Department; (3) a statement of the procedure that the requester shall follow to file exceptions contesting the denial; (4) the name and mailing address of the Department's RTKL exceptions office: and (5) the words ''Mailing Date'' followed by date that is the mailing date.
11. If the Director does not respond to the request within 10 business days after a RTKL request is docketed as having been received, a RTKL request shall be deemed to have been denied and the requester may file an exception.
12. Exceptions to a written denial must be filed within 15 business days of the mailing date of the written denial.
13. Exceptions to a deemed denial must be filed within 15 calendar days of the date the request is deemed denied.
14. Exceptions to a denial or partial denial of a request must be set forth in writing and must be correctly addressed and submitted to the Department's Deputy Secretary for Administration (Deputy Secretary). Exceptions submitted to any other official, office or address are defective and do not stop the running of the 15-day exceptions period. Exceptions must be sent or delivered to Deputy Secretary for Administration, Department of Health, 815 Health and Welfare Building, P. O. Box 90, Harrisburg, PA 17108-0090, Fax: (717) 772-6959
15. Exceptions are filed on the mailing date to the Deputy Secretary.
16. When exceptions are submitted by United States mail, their mailing date is the date of the postmark on the envelope. If the postmark is illegible, the mailing date is deemed to be the calendar day that immediately preceded the date on which the exceptions are received, unless that immediately preceding date is a Sunday or a Federal holiday.
17. When exceptions are filed by facsimile transmission, the mailing date is the transmission date affixed to the facsimile. If exceptions are filed in person, by courier service, by overnight mail or parcel delivery service or in any way other than by sending them through the United States mail or by facsimile transmission, their mailing date is deemed to be the date the exceptions are received by the Deputy Secretary, except that exceptions received by the Deputy Secretary after the close of the usual business hours of that office are deemed to be received on the next business day. The regular business hours of the Deputy Secretary's office are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
18. Exceptions to a denial or a partial denial of a request may not be submitted through the use of e-mail.
19. Exceptions that are untimely will be dismissed for that reason.
20. Exceptions must state the reason upon which the requester asserts that the record to which the requester has been denied access is a public record. Reasons not set forth during the 15-day period in which exceptions must be filed are deemed to be waived and will be disregarded by the Deputy Secretary.
21. Exceptions must address the reasons stated by the Director in denying the request. Exceptions that fail to comply with this requirement will be dismissed for that reason.
22. If the request is denied due to a deemed denial, the requester is not required to set forth any grounds for contesting the denial. The Deputy Secretary shall consider the cases for both the requester and the Director. The Director may raise available defenses to the request.
23. Unless the requester agrees otherwise, when a requester files exceptions to a denial, the Deputy Secretary will issue a final determination within 30 calendar days of the mailing date of the exceptions. If the requester requests a hearing, the Deputy Secretary may condition the grant of that request upon the requester's written consent or agreement to an extension of the time for a decision on the exception.
24. Exceptions are resolved by a final determination, which is a final order of the Deputy Secretary. A final determination shall be set forth in writing. If the Deputy Secretary determines that the Director correctly denied the request for access, the Deputy Secretary will issue a written explanation to the requester of the reason for the denial by the last day a decision on the exception is due.
25. Either the requester or the Director may request a hearing on the exceptions. The decision as to whether to hold a hearing rests in the discretion of the Deputy Secretary and is not appealable.
26. Providing a requester with physical access to a document in an office of the Department is a ''response'' for the purposes of the RTKL. Only the Director has the authority to permit this access. Hours of access shall be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
27. A public record will be provided to the requester in the medium requested if the record exists in that medium. Otherwise, the public record will be provided in the medium in which it exists. Where the record is only available in electronic form, the Department will print it out on paper if the requester so requests.
28. The Department may make its public records available through its website. However, if access to public records is available only through electronic means, the Department will provide access to the records at an office of the Department.
29. With the concurrence of the Department, a requester may bring his or her own photocopying equipment, computers and other equipment into the Department's offices for the purposes of making copies of public records.
30. Photocopies--One ''photocopy'' is either a single-sided copy or one side of a double-sided copy. One side of a standard 8.5" × 11" page is $0.15 if using the agency's copiers and prevailing cost if copied otherwise. One side of any irregular sized page is the prevailing cost but not less than $0.15.
31. Other Materials:
PC Diskettes--$1 per diskette plus cost of labor, both salary and benefits.
Microfilm/microfiche--actual cost including cost of labor, both salary and benefits.
Material fitting into standard letter envelope is mailed at no charge.
Material fitting into a non-standard envelope or other shipping container is mailed at actual cost.
33. If redaction is required before the public records can be accessed or copied for the benefit of the requester, the Department will charge a reasonable fee including cost of labor, both salary and benefits.
34. The cost to certify the copies for the purpose of legally verifying the public record shall be $1 per side of a standard 8.5" × 11" page.
35. The Department may require prepayment if the anticipated cost to fulfill the request exceeds $100. Unless prepayment is made by certified check, access will be denied until a regular check clears. If the fee is for copying only, the Department shall allow access to the records but shall refuse to make copies until the fee is paid. If the fee includes redaction costs, the Department shall deny access to the requester until the redaction fee is paid. If the requester pays any fee by check, the payee shall be ''Pennsylvania Department of Health.''
36. The Department may assess a reasonable fee for labor and other expenses necessary to comply with the request for access to, or copying of, requested records (but not for determining whether requested records are public records required to be provided to the requester under the RTKL), for example, costs for retrieval of records from storage.
This policy can also be obtained on the Department's website at www.health.state.pa.us or by contacting the Communications Office, Department of Health, 808 Health and Welfare Building P. O. Box 90, Harrisburg, PA 17108-0090, (717) 787-1783. Questions regarding this policy should be directed to the same office.
Persons who, due to a disability, would like to obtain this document in an alternative format (that is, large print, audiotape, or Braille) should contact the Communications Office for assistance. Speech or hearing impaired persons may use V/TT (717) 783-6514 or the Pennsylvania AT&T Relay Services at (800) 654-5984 (TT).
CALVIN B. JOHNSON, M.D., M.P.H.,
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 04-482. Filed for public inspection March 19, 2004, 9:00 a.m.]
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