Pa. questioned on adherence to open records law

    Pennsylvania state employees received training that may allow them to evade open records requests.

    The allegation from the head of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records involve training on the state government’s new phone system, according to a letter he write to the governor’s office.

    Terry Mutchler explained some trainings on the new technology suggested an instant messaging feature provided a way to work around the state’s open records law.

    “Was it a nefarious attempt?” said Mutchler. “I don’t believe that it was. But I believe that it caused some confusion and I believe that highlighting this particular feature of the phone system is ill-advised.”

    The instant messaging system does not leave permanent records.

    Dan Egan, spokesman for the Office of Administration, says the agency is reviewing what occurred at the trainings in question. But Egan says the system is appropriate to use for daily communications.

    “If an instant message conversation were to be heading in a direction where it could potentially create a record, we want the employees to go to a format that will have a record, such as an email or hard copy,” Egan stated.

    Mutchler says Pennsylvania has more to do to spread a culture of transparency.

    Lawmakers are in the midst of rewriting the statute, with an eye toward including state-affiliated universities such as Penn State and Temple in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

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