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September 19, 2013

Open records office opinion detailed

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle school district did not meet its burden of proof that employees’ names are exempt from disclosure.

That was noted in a determination issued by an appeals officer in the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.

The ruling directs the district to provide the names of employees who lived outside the district and failed to pay tuition for their children attending city schools for the years identified in a state auditor general’s report.

Charles Brown’s ruling noted superintendent John Sarandrea had argued against the New Castle News’ request for the names saying the employees associated with the audit finding were subject to a noncriminal investigation the district is conducting. Sarandrea noted the investigation began after July 1, when he became superintendent, Brown pointed out.

His findings were that The News’ request was filed June 25, prior to Sarandrea’s hiring.

“The district cannot withhold records relating to a noncriminal investigation that did not exist at the time the request was made,” the determination states.

Brown noted The News request does not seek any information about the district’s students, nor does it ask for the names of the parents of any specific student.

Further, Brown wrote, the district does not substantiate that the disclosure of the employees’ names are “directly related” to specific students or that it would allow a reasonable person in the community to identify specific students with reasonable certainty.

“Accordingly, the (office of open records) holds that the names of district employees (requested) are subject to public access.”

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