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Weidenhof v. Lancaster Township

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  1. Freedom of Information

Case Numbers: 2021-10207 (related case: Lancaster Township. v. Weidenhof, No. MsD. No. 2021-40053)

Court: Court of Common Pleas of Butler County

Clients: Alex Weidenhof, The Butler Eagle and The Cranberry Eagle

Complaint Filed: March 23, 2021

Background: In 2020, Alex Weidenhof, a reporter for The Butler Eagle, filed requests with Lancaster Township seeking records about the end of a former employee’s work with the township, as well as other records about that employee. While the township provided access to a separation agreement, it did not provide all the records sought under the Right to Know Law.

Weidenhof challenged the township’s withholdings and won a favorable ruling from Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records, which ordered the township to provide some of the requested records. The township did not provide the records, nor did it appeal the OOR’s determination to the county court, so Weidenhof and the Butler Eagle filed an enforcement action against the township, seeking attorneys fees and a penalty for the township’s bad faith in performing the search or complying with the OOR final determination.

(In a related case, Lancaster Township filed a Right to Know Law appeal following another successful appeal by Weidenhof to the OOR).

Reporters Committee attorneys are representing Weidenhof, The Butler Eagle and The Cranberry Eagle in their effort to access the requested records in both the enforcement case and the township’s Right to Know Law appeal.

Update: On April 11, 2022, Judge S. Michael Yeager of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas signed a consent order and notice of voluntary dismissal in the enforcement action. The township agreed to pay the maximum statutory penalty pursuant to 65 P.S. § 67.1305(a) of the Right to Know Law ($1,500) as well as $5,000 in attorneys’ fees. In addition, all township employees and elected officials will undergo training on the Right to Know Law and agencies’ obligations under the law within the next six months. The parties also agreed to voluntarily dismiss the township’s appeal of the second RTKL case.

Filings:

Weidenhof and the Butler Eagle v. Lancaster Township (Enforcement action)

2020-08-12: OOR final determination 

2021-03-23: Weidenhof complaint in mandamus

2021-04-26: Answer to complaint in mandamus

2021-12-29: Brief in support of motion for summary judgment

2022-01-03: Court order

2022-04-04: Brief in opposition to plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment

2022-04-11: Consent order and notice of dismissal

Lancaster Township. v. Weidenhof and Cranberry Eagle (RTKL appeal)

2021-01-26: Office of Open Records final determination

2021-02-26: Township’s petition for review of Office of Open Records final determination

2022-04-11: Notice of voluntary dismissal