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Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission v. Jan Murphy

July 19, 2011

PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION, PETITIONER
v.
JAN MURPHY, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Patricia A. McCULLOUGH, Judge

Argued: June 6, 2011

BEFORE: HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge (P.) HONORABLE JAMES R. KELLEY, Senior Judge

OPINION BY JUDGE McCULLOUGH

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (Commission) petitions for review of the December 1, 2010, final determination of the Office of Open Records (OOR) granting in part and denying in part the appeal of Jan Murphy (Requester) from the Commission's denial of her request for information relating to the use of E- ZPass transponders by Commission employees.

Requester is a reporter for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. On October 21, 2010, Requester submitted the following request to the Commission under the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL)*fn1 :

I am requesting information in Excel format that details employee usage of Pennsylvania Turnpike since Jan. 3, 2010. I would like to know how many employees there are and how many have E-ZPass transponders assigned to them. Of those employees with commission-approved transponders, I am requesting their names, their positions with the commission, and a record of their usage of the turnpike including identifying the interchanges where they enter and exit the turnpike and the times and dates of travel. If this would cost more than $100, please notify me in advance.

(R.R. at 7a.) By letter dated October 22, 2010, the Commission's open records officer denied the request. The letter explained that, to the extent that Requester sought answers to questions, the Commission was not required to answer questions or otherwise respond to requests other than for records. (R.R. at 9a.)

With respect to the remainder of the request, the letter alleged that the E- ZPass information sought by Requester was not a public record because it was exempt from disclosure under section 8117(b)(5) of the Transportation Act,*fn2 which addresses electronic toll collection and provides in part, as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, videotapes, photographs, microphotographs, other recorded images, written records, reports or facsimiles prepared pursuant to this section shall be for the exclusive use of the commission, its authorized agents, its employees and law enforcement officials for the purpose of discharging duties under this section and the regulations of the commission.

The information shall not be deemed a public record under the act of June 21, 1957 (P.L. 390, No. 212), referred to as the Right-to-Know Law. The information shall not be discoverable by court order or otherwise; nor shall it be offered in evidence in any action or proceeding which is not directly related to a violation of this section, the regulations of the commission or indemnification for liability imposed pursuant to this section.

74 Pa. C.S. §8117(b)(5) (Emphasis added) Id. The letter also cited section 8117(d) of the Transportation Act, which addresses the privacy of electronic toll collection account holder information and provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

(1) Except as set forth under paragraph (2), notwithstanding any other provision of law, all of the following apply to information kept by the commission, its authorized agents or its employees which is related to the account of an electronic toll collection system account holder:

(i) The information shall be for the exclusive use of the commission, its authorized agents, its employees and law enforcement officials for the purpose of discharging their duties pursuant to this section and the regulations of the commission. This subparagraph includes names, addresses, account numbers, account balances, personal financial information, vehicle movement records and other information compiled from transactions with the account holders.

(ii) The information shall not be deemed a public record under the Right-to-Know Law, nor shall it be discoverable by court order or otherwise or be offered in evidence in any action or proceeding which is not directly related to the discharge of duties under this section, the ...


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