Private Email of Public Officials

October 2010Alerts

Judge Albright of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County issued an opinion which -- at least within Montgomery County -- protects the personal emails of agency personnel (both elected and employed). The Office of Open Records came to a different conclusion ruling that such emails are agency records and that the agency is required to get the emails from the individuals and turn them over to requesters.

As above, Judge Albright disagreed -- and at least within Montgomery County his opinion overrules the OOR.

I have read Judge Albright's decision. He specifically found that emails on individual township supervisors' personal computers at their homes and private email accounts were neither township records nor public records. This means that -- at least for now -- there is different law applied to those agencies within Montgomery County (and, as below, in York) than there is elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

As always, however, this may not be the final word. Back in April a York County court also came to the same conclusion as Judge Albright and that York County case is already on appeal. It is set to be argued in front of the Commonwealth Court in December. If the Commonwealth Court thinks the York County judge was wrong, then its opinion will also be understood to overrule Judge Albright. We'll have to wait to see what happens.

The solicitor's office for Worcester Township was nice enough to send me a copy of Judge Albright's order and I thank them for their courtesy. That case is Township of Worcester v. CW of PA, Office of Open Records and James Mollick, Montgomery Cty. Dkt. No. 09-09584.

If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Kyle Berman or any member of Fox Rothschild’s Education Law Group.