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Geoffrey Johnson v. Pennsylvania Convention

August 1, 2012

GEOFFREY JOHNSON, PETITIONER
v.
PENNSYLVANIA CONVENTION CENTER AUTHORITY, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bernard L. McGINLEY, Judge

Argued: May 14, 2012

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge HONORABLE RENEE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge

OPINION BY JUDGE McGINLEY

Geoffrey Johnson (Johnson) petitions for review of the Final Determination of the Office of Open Records (OOR) which denied, in part, his Right to Know Law*fn1 (RTKL) request.

On May 12, 2011, Johnson submitted a RTKL request to the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority (PCCA), the owner and operator of the Convention Center Facilities in Philadelphia.*fn2

According to Johnson, the records relate to a significant public issue of alleged "union strife" at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Johnson seeks access to records which relate to a "labor management agreement" known as the Customer Satisfaction Agreement (CSA) which was executed by the PCCA in 2002, and all trade unions which provided labor at the Convention Center including: Carpenters Regional Council, I.B.E.W. Local 98 (Electricians), Laborers Local 332, IATSE Local 8 (Stage Hands), Riggers Local 161 and Teamsters Local 107, and several PCCA contractors whose job it was to lower costs and ensure customer satisfaction for those who booked trade shows and other events at the facility. The CSA was signed by all unions and made part of and incorporated into the collective bargaining agreements of PCCA's six labor unions. The CSA includes provisions for customer, exhibitor and contractor rights, work jurisdictions, the engagement of Elliot-Lewis Corporation, the "Labor Supplier," which coordinated the activities among the trade unions, and dispute resolution procedures.

PCCA provided some documents, but withheld those in response to Document Request Nos. 3 and 4, which applied to disputes between the trade unions over "work jurisdiction" and/or disputes between various trade unions and the labor supplier over work assignments and other matters. Document Request Nos. 3 and 4 asked for:

3. Any documents regarding the Customer Satisfaction Agreement (hereinafter CSA), grievances under the CSA, grievance procedures under the CSA, allocation of labor, work rules for any Labor Unions, jurisdictional decisions, jurisdictional disputes, dispute resolutions and/or dispute resolution procedures under Section K of the CSA, and/or Local 98, Pre-Show Conferences, Show Services Advisory Committee Meetings, violations of the CSA, or alleged violations of the CSA, and/or the rights of any Labor Union under the CSA from 2003 to present.

4. Any communications regarding the CSA, grievances under the CSA, grievance procedures under the CSA, allocation of labor, work rules for any Labor Unions, jurisdictional decisions, jurisdictional disputes, Local 98, Pre-Show Conferences, Show Services Advisory Committee Meetings, Violations of the CSA, alleged violations of the CSA, the rights of any Labor Union under the CSA, by and between any of the following parties: Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority (hereinafter PCCA), its officers, agents or employees, Philadelphia Area Labor-Management Committee (hereinafter PALM), its officers, agents or employees, the Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau (hereinafter PCVB), its officers, agents or employees, any House Contractor as defined in the CSA, its officers, agents or employees, any Customer or Exhibitor as defined in the CSA, its officers agents or employees, any Labor Union that is a signatory to the CSA, its officers, agents or employees, and/or the Philadelphia Expositional Services Contractors Association (hereinafter PESCA), its officers, agents or employees from 2003 to the present. Right to Know Request Form, May 12, 2011, ¶¶3, 4, at 2; Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 33a.

Relying on Section 708(b)(7) of the RTKL, PCCA did not provide grievance material and similar records related to union laborers, and which specifically pertained to and were provided under a labor management agreement among several signatories and which were appended to and made part of collective bargaining agreements. In addition, PCCA withheld records under Section 708(b)(17) of the RTKL that reflected the investigation of such grievances filed against the PCCA, alleged violations of the PCCA and the resolution of jurisdictional disputes among various trades and the PCCA.

Johnson appealed. The OOR concluded that PCCA met its burden of proving the documents were exempt from public disclosure under the RTKL. Specifically, the OOR concluded that records sought by Johnson consisted of "grievance material" and records which related to union laborers under Section 708(b)(7)(vi), (vii) and (viii); and that Section 708(b)(7) was applicable because labor union employees qualify as agency employees.

Johnson raises two issues on appeal*fn3 : (1) whether the OOR erred when it determined that the records sought by Johnson in Item Nos. 3 and 4 of his RTKL request were exempted from disclosure under Sections 708(b)(7)(vi), (vii) and (viii) of the RTKL; and (2) whether the OOR erred when it determined that the records sought by Johnson in Item Nos. 3 and 4 of his RTKL request were exempt from disclosure under Section 708(b)(17)(i) of the RTKL?

I.

First, Johnson contends that the OOR erred when it concluded that the PCCA met its burden of establishing that the subparts of Item Nos. 3 and 4 are exempt under Section 708(b)(7)(vi), (vii) and (viii) which exempts the following records "relating to an agency employee": (vi) Written criticisms of an employee. (vii) Grievance material, including documents related to discrimination or sexual harassment. ...


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