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05/14/97 TAPCO v. TOWNSHIP NEVILLE

May 14, 1997

TAPCO, INC., APPELLANT
v.
TOWNSHIP OF NEVILLE



Appealed From No. S.A. 96-325. Common Pleas Court of the County of Allegheny. Judge WATSON.

Before: Honorable Doris A. Smith, Judge, Honorable Dan Pellegrini, Judge, Honorable Jess S. Jiuliante, Senior Judge. Opinion BY Judge Pellegrini. Concurring Opinion BY Judge Smith

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pellegrini

OPINION BY JUDGE PELLEGRINI

FILED: May 14, 1997

Tapco, Inc. (Tapco) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court) affirming in part and reversing in part the Township of Neville's (Township) denial of Tapco's request for a variety of information under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Act (Act). *fn1

At the outset, we note that Tapco's requests read like discovery requests rather than Right-to-Know Act requests. Rather than requesting accounts or vouchers that it wants to examine, Tapco wants the Township to conduct a records search and produce certain documents. Under the Right-to-Know Act, all the agency is required to do is make the records available for inspection; it is up to the requester to conduct the search. If an objection had been made to the form of the request, it would have been proper for the trial court to have quashed the request. However, because there was no objection, we will consider this appeal.

Tapco is a Pennsylvania corporation and operates a rendering operation in the Township which involves cooking animal by-products. Pursuant to the Act, Tapco made a request for (1) audio tapes of the Township Board of Commissioners' meetings and (2) a video tape of the Tapco facility which was shown at a Board of Commissioners' meeting. The Township denied this request and Tapco filed an appeal with the trial court.

Tapco then made a second request to the Township seeking:

(1) A copy of an Agreement between the Township and Sebring and Associates and/or William Otto regarding the Township's retention of an environmental solicitor;

(2) All minutes of regular or caucus meetings, and any notes or other documents related to the Sebring and Associates/Otto proposal or agreement with the Township;

(3) A copy of any police reports or other written documents related to any Tapco odor complaint(s);

(4) Any tape recordings or video tapes relating to any Tapco odor complaints;

(5) Copies of all correspondence, notes, memoranda, records of telephone conversations, proposals, appraisals, condition reports, inspection reports or any related correspondence or photographs from March 1, 1993, through and including the present date from Kappe & Associates related to the Township's pump stations;

(6) All work schedules, work invoices, records of repair or maintenance work, bills/invoices for materials related to the repair, retrofit, refurbishing and/or replacement work performed on the Township's pump stations from October 1, 1994, to the present date;

(a) Produce all documents identifying the conditions, causes, reasons or purposes for any of the repair, retrofit, refurbishing or replacement work to the Township's two pumping stations from October 1, 1994, to the present date;

(b) Produce all documents related to any proposed repairs, retrofit, refurbishing or replacement work for the Township's two pump stations scheduled or intended to be performed during March or April of 1996;

(7) All documents, correspondence or other tangible things between the Township and FEMA or PEMA from January 1, 1988, through the present date;

(8) Produce a copy of the 'proposed draft' of the Zoning Permit for Tapco as more fully described at page 333 of the Commissioners' ...


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