Appeal from a Decision of Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police in case of Request of Edward F. Lamolinara.
William E. Schadler, with him Alvin B. Lewis, and Lewis, Brubaker & Christianson, for appellant.
Glenn Gilman, Deputy Attorney General, with him J. Andrew Smyser, Deputy Attorney General, and Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Kramer.
[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 308]
This case comes before us by way of a Petition for Review of certain actions taken by the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. Because there were no official proceedings below and the entire record consists of a single letter from the State Police to the petitioner, Edward F. Lamolinara, we shall set forth as "facts" only those events and matters upon which the briefs of the parties are in agreement.
Lamolinara was a member of the Pennsylvania State Police from September of 1965 until February 9, 1967. On February 9, 1967, Lamolinara's active employment was ended. The exact nature of this "termination" and the reasons behind it are matters in dispute between the parties and lie at the heart of the present controversy, which appears to be only the latest skirmish in a continuing legal struggle between Lamolinara and the State Police. Simply stated, Lamolinara desires to examine his personnel file to determine the reasons for his release from his duties as an officer. He contends that the right to inspect his employment records arises under the provisions of what is popularly known as the "Right-to-Know Law."*fn1 We agree.
[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 309]
The narrow issue is whether or not Lamolinara's personnel records constitute a "public record" under the Right-to-Know Law. The Right-to-Know Law defines a public record in Section 1 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 66.1(2), as follows:
(2) 'Public Record.' Any account, voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds by an agency or its acquisition, use or disposal of services or of supplies, materials, equipment or other property and any minute, order or decision by an agency fixing the personal or property rights, privileges, immunities, duties or obligations of any person or group of persons: Provided, That the term 'public records' shall not mean any report, communication or other paper, the publication of which would disclose the institution, progress or result of an investigation undertaken by an agency in the performance of its official duties, except those reports filed by agencies pertaining to safety and health in industrial plants; it shall not include any record, document, material, exhibit, pleading, report, memorandum or other paper, access to or the publication of which is prohibited, restricted or forbidden by statute law or order or decree of court, or which would operate to the prejudice or impairment of a person's reputation or personal security, or which would result in the loss by the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions or commissions or State or municipal authorities of Federal funds, excepting therefrom however the record of any conviction for any criminal act. (Emphasis added.)
Respondents do not contend that Lamolinara's personnel records fall within any of the listed exceptions to the definition of "public record." They simply contend
[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 310]
that personnel records are not "public records" under the Right-to-Know Law. For authority, they rely exclusively on this Court's opinion in West Shore School District v. Homick, 23 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 615, 353 A.2d 93 (1976). In West Shore this Court denied a teacher's request to examine the contents of his personnel file upon concluding that those contents were not a "public record" as they did not "(1) constitute a minute, order or decision of the Board or (2) fix any rights, privileges, immunities, duties or obligations of the teacher." 23 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 619, 353 A.2d at 95. The crucial factor underlying that conclusion was the fact that the teacher did not allege that the records would reflect any action by the School Board that affected any of his personal or property rights, privileges, ...