Appealed From No. Denial of Right To Know Request on August 27, 1996. State Agency Department of Corrections.
Before: Honorable Dan Pellegrini, Judge, Honorable Jim Flaherty, Judge, Honorable Charles P. Mirarchi, Jr., Senior Judge. Opinion BY Judge Pellegrini.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pellegrini
AND NOW, this 18th day of November, 1997, it is Ordered that the opinion filed August 13, 1997, shall be designated OPINION rather than MEMORANDUM OPINION, and that it shall be reported.
OPINION BY JUDGE PELLEGRINI
Francis E. Weaver (Weaver) petitions for review of a decision of the Department of Corrections (Department) denying his request for access to the Pennsylvania Additive Classification Tool Manual under the Right-to-Know Act (Act), Act of June 21, 1957, P.L. 390, as amended, 65 P.S. §§ 66.1- 66.4.
Weaver is presently an inmate at the State Correctional Institution Retreat in Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania. He filed requests at the institutional level and with the Commissioner of Corrections, Martin F. Horn, requesting that the Department allow him "to see, inspect, peruse and/or copy the Department of Corrections, Pennsylvania Additive Classification Tool (PACT) Manual." The PACT Manual is utilized by Department treatment staff in determining the level of custody of each inmate, which, in turn, dictates an inmate's housing status. Weaver's requests were denied and he then filed this appeal. *fn1
Weaver contends that the Department erred in refusing his Right-to-Know Act request because the PACT Manual is a public record as defined by the Act because it affects a decision on how he is "housed" which affects the employment, educational and recreational opportunities that he has while incarcerated.
The Right-to-Know Act provides the right of access to an agency's public records to every citizen of Pennsylvania. Section 2 of that Act provides that "Every public record of any agency shall, at reasonable times, be open for examination and inspection by any citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." 65 P.S. § 66.2. A document is a "public record" if it is:
Any account, voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds by an agency or its acquisition, use of 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...
Section 1(2) of the Act, 65 P.S. § 66.1(2). *fn2
The Department argues that the PACT Manual is not a public record because it does not fix Weaver's personal or property rights because he has none regarding "housing" decisions. Wilder v. Department of Corrections, 673 A.2d 30 (Pa. Commw. 1996). While indeed, Weaver has no right to any particular type of "housing", Weaver's right or lack of right is not alone determinative. Under the Right-to-Know Act, the right to examine a public record is not based on whether the person requesting the disclosure is affected by the records or if his or her motives are not pure in seeking them, but whether any person's rights are fixed. Tribune-Review Publishing Company ; Marvel v. Dalrymple, 38 Pa. Commw. 67, 393 A.2d 494, 497 (Pa. Commw. 1978).
In Gutman v. Pennsylvania State Police, 148 Pa. Commw. 567, 612 A.2d 553 (Pa. Commw. 1992), petition for allowance of appeal denied, 533 Pa. 638, 621 A.2d 583 (1993), a citizen requested any regulation, directive, general or special order of the State Police covering the use of deadly force, documents relating to drug and sobriety checkpoints, along with other types of information, contended that they constituted orders or decisions of the State Police under Section 1(2) of the Act. We noted that Section 1(2) of the Act had been broadly construed so as to require "only some form of action by an agency that has an effect on someone", Pastore v. Commonwealth, Insurance ...