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Woods v. Office of Open Records

June 10, 2010

BARRY WOODS, PETITIONER
v.
OFFICE OF OPEN RECORDS, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: President Judge Leadbetter

SUBMITTED: March 26, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge.

OPINION

Barry Woods, acting pro se, petitions for review of the August 24, 2009 final determination of the Office of Open Records (OOR) that denied his appeal from the partial denial of his request for "PBPP Manual Chapter 4-Sex Offender Supervision Protocol" by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Board) pursuant to Section 708(b)(2) of the Right-to-Know Law (the Law).*fn1 Section 708(b)(2) of the Law exempts from public access, inter alia, records relating to law enforcement or other public safety activity "that, if disclosed, would be reasonably likely to jeopardize or threaten public safety or preparedness or public protection activity. . . ." The Board's open records officer provided Woods with the requested policy, but with two sections redacted: "Polygraph" and "Supervision Strategies." Woods having conceded his argument on the "Polygraph" section, the only issue before us is whether the OOR erred in determining that the Board met its burden of proving that the "Supervision Strategies" section should be exempt from public disclosure under Section 708(b)(2) of the Law.*fn2 We affirm.*fn3

The background of this case is as follows. On June 22, 2009, Woods submitted a right-to-know request to the Board seeking its policy on sex offender supervision. The Board's open records officer invoked the thirty-day extension for legal review. Thereafter, she supplied Woods with a copy of the policy, but with the aforementioned sections redacted. Woods appealed the Board's partial denial, asserting that the requested information constituted a public record because it contained the criteria for analyzing the home plans that sex offenders must submit for parole consideration.*fn4 He further maintained that the failure to make the policy available in its entirety unfairly disadvantaged sex offenders, stating that "[w]e cannot follow the rules if we do not know the rules." Certified Record ("C.R."), Tab 4 at p. 2 (emphasis in original).

Upon initial review of Woods' appeal, the OOR appeals officer noted that the Board had to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that its redactions were protected under Section 708(b)(2) of the Law.*fn5 To that end, she sent a letter to the Board, stating:

Kindly explain how the redactions from the Manual are connected to law enforcement or other public safety activity, and the basis for concluding that their release is "reasonably likely" to threaten public safety/protection. Your submission should include citation to applicable legal authority and/or submission of documentary support, such as a sworn statement, to support any facts upon which your conclusion relies.

C.R., Tab 6 at p. 1. Specifically with regard to the significant redactions in the "Supervision Strategies" section," she asked the Board to "outline the type of information contained within those pages, to include the headers only to indicate the type of information contained therein, without revealing any of its substance."

Id. In response, the Board submitted a letter from Assistant Counsel John J. Talaber and an affidavit from Deputy Executive Director John Tuttle.*fn6

In compliance with the appeals officer's request, the assistant counsel in his letter recited the headers of the redacted "Supervision Strategies" section:

(a) Face to Fact contacts (pp. 5-7);

(b) Residential Assessments (pp. 7-8);

(c) Contacts with Sex Offender Treatment professionals (p. 8);

(d) Sex Offenders Residing in Community Corrections ...


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