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Pa. judge rules delinquent sewer customers' information is public

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  1. Freedom of Information
A state judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that the names, property addresses, billing addresses and other information about delinquent sewer…

A state judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that the names, property addresses, billing addresses and other information about delinquent sewer customers is subject to the state’s Right-to-Know Law.

Last August, a Patriot-News reporter requested the information, which also includes the amount owed to the sewer department and how many days past due the customer is on paying its bill.

At the time of the request, the PA Media Group, which owns The Patriot-News, said residents had an interest in seeing how billing was handled as sewer services costs rise. Costs had recently increased between 37 and 62 percent for 1,800 customers in the region.

The borough to which the newspaper submitted the request indicated it was concerned about violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act if it released the information.

In October, Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records ruled that releasing the records would not violate any other law. The state appealed, and a judge this week affirmed the office’s opinion. The state now has 15 days to release the records.

"This is a victory for our newsroom, [and] a victory for the Office of Open Records, which originally ruled in our favor. Most importantly, the decision is a victory for taxpayers who need to be fully aware of how their local governments — and the municipal services they pay for — are being run," Cate Barron, vice president of content for PA Media Group, told The Patriot-News.