Schuylkill County government officials say they need more time to get us a digital copy of the proposed 2022 budget we asked for nearly 2 weeks ago.
Presumably, the budget is saved as a PDF file somewhere on a Courthouse computer but the 5 business days the County had to respond with it attached to an email just wasn’t enough.
To let us know, the County Solicitor’s office attached a letter, saved as a PDF, to an email. The letter actually appears to be a scanned image of the letter on County letterhead.
We got the letter during the last hour of the 5th business day following our initial Right to Know request to see the budget.
The fact that we, or anyone in Schuylkill County, needs to file a Right to Know form with the Courthouse in order to see the proposed 2022 budget is absurd. And it was a topic of discussion last week during the Commissioners meeting.
In response to a request from Commissioner Gary Hess, who questioned why the budget just can’t be placed on the County website, Administrator Gary Bender said officials are “working through” that and Commissioner Boots Hetherington said they’re “workin’ on it.” Since saying they’re working through or on it, the County has managed to post at least 10 PDF files on its site, none of which are the budget.
Schuylkill County Needs More Time to Attach a PDF to an Email
The County cites 3 reasons why it needs more time to fulfill our request for copies of the proposed 2022 budget and the 2021 budget as it was originally passed at the end of 2020.
1. Staffing Limitations
One of the reasons cited for needing more time is “bona fide and specific staffing limitations.”
2. Legal Review
The second, and most laughable, reason the Courthouse needs more time, they say, is “A legal review is necessary to determine whether the record is a record subject to access under the RTKL (Right to Know Law).
This is laughable because the County is required by law to have the very document we seek a digital copy of on display. A copy is allegedly on display at the Commissioners office. But viewing it and taking time to review it would require someone to sit in the Courthouse to do so. That could take hours. We’re told the budget is at least 120 pages.
You don’t need any of the umpteen lawyers the Commissioners have contracted or have on staff to tell you that the proposed 2022 budget is definitely available under the Right to Know Law.
3. We’re Asking for Too Much
The third reason given for not responding with a copy of what we want is, they say, we’re just asking for too much. All this in 5 days?
The response letter reads: “The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period.”
Apparently, asking for a copy of a document that should be readily available to the general public at any time just can’t be done in 5 full business days.
We’ll Get Back to You
The County says they’ll need up to the 30 days they’re allowed to take with an extension. And they’ll get back to us with a determination on this request by Dec. 29. By the way, that’s more than a week after the finalized budget will be passed.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
We’ve been documenting our path to getting a copy of the proposed 2022 Schuylkill County budget and get it posted to the County website. To date, we’ve encountered nothing but roadblocks and red tape as the Courthouse seems determined at preventing us and anyone else from viewing it on their own.
Read our full coverage:
- Transparency? Schuylkill County Requiring Right to Know Forms for Copy of Proposed 2022 Budget
- Schuylkill County “Working Through” Getting 2022 Budget Online
- Schuylkill County Has a Policy of Bare Minimum Transparency