Legal Hotline: Right to Know Law response extension

  • Dec 17, 2015

Q: An agency requested an additional 30 days in which to respond to my Right to Know Law request. The agency’s estimated response date gives them 30 business days to produce a final response. I thought agencies were limited to 30 calendar days. Which is correct: 30 business or 30 calendar days for an agency time extension?

A: The Right to Know Law allows agencies to extend their response time by 30 calendar days in appropriate circumstances.

Section 901 of the Right to Know Law requires agencies to respond, in writing, to written requests for records as promptly as possible, but not to exceed five business days. Within that time, an agency must respond by granting access, denying access or when appropriate under section 902, by requesting an additional 30 calendar days in which to respond.

An agency can request additional time for response in a number of circumstances, including when legal review is necessary, for bona fide and specified staffing limitations, when records are stored remotely, when a requester fails to follow agency RTKL procedure or fails to pay applicable fees,  when redaction is necessary, or when the nature of the request requires additional time. Section 902(b) of the Right to Know Law states that when an agency requests an additional 30 calendar days, the agency must notify the requestor that the request is being reviewed, the reason for the review, a fee estimate and a reasonable date that a response is expected. If the expected response date exceeds the 30 calendar days permitted by law, the request is deemed denied unless the requestor agrees to an extension in writing. 

If the requestor does not agree to an extension of time, the request is deemed denied and the requestor can pursue appellate rights. 

The Office of Open Records’ website includes “Tips from the Executive Director” which clearly explains the 30 calendar day rule.

As always, this is not intended nor should it be construed as legal advice. Please contact your newspaper’s attorney or the Legal Hotline at (717) 703-3080 with questions.

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