Denied: Appeal of Allentown tax record redactions

Denied: An appeal of redactions made on a request to Allentown for correspondence between the city and its tax collection agency.

The city had partially denied the initial request by making records available but redacting information it said it could withhold under the Local Tax Enabling Act and the Right to Know Law provision protecting records pertaining to complaints or non-criminal investigations.

The requester contended that the city did not specify the reason for each redaction, and that he did not believe the redactions were proper.

The Office of Open Records, in its response, agreed with the city that:

-- Another law (the LTEA) protects confidential tax return information.

-- Information related to investigation of citizen complaints is exempt from disclosure by the Right to Know Law, which protects records relating to a noncriminal investigation, including "complaints submitted to an agency" and "investigative materials, notes, correspondence and reports."

-- The city's denial was sufficient in defending the redactions.

"The requester contends that the city did not adequately justify its redactions from the 41 pages because the city did not specify which exception applied to which correspondence," the OOR wrote. "In essence, the requester contends that the city is required to submit a redaction log so that each redaction is explained, and each has a citation to the law.

"In this case, two exemptions are asserted. The requester asserts that he cannot discern which one applies based on the context of the unredacted material. The RTKL does not require an agency to provide a “redaction log” to a requester in order to satisfy its obligations for a proper denial under Section 903."

The OOR noted that Section 903 requires the agency to set forth “specific reasons for the denial, including a citation of supporting legal authority.”

"The city cited the specific reasons for the redactions, and cited the appropriate legal exemptions by citing a statute, including full legal citation, and an exception under the RTKL by name and legal citation," the OOR wrote. "The city denial thus satisfies the RTKL."

Renshaw vs. City of Allentown AP 2009-1101