Pottsville City Council appears to have violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act at Monday’s monthly meeting.
Based on video streamed to Facebook by the city, officials admit that a hard copy of the agenda was not available to the public at the meeting. Further, no agenda file was available at the city’s website prior to the meeting.
Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act requires that a public meeting agenda be posted 24 hours prior to a meeting. Further, it requires that a hard copy be available to the public in attendance at the meeting.
The issue was brought to the attention of City Council at Monday’s meeting by Pottsville resident Laura Kryzanowski.
After reminding City Council members, Pottsville’s Mayor, and the city’s Solicitor of her interpretation of the Sunshine Act, Kryzanowski was met with open hostility and defiance by those officials.
You can watch a clipped video of those exchanges here:
She is told why the agenda was not publicly available prior to Monday’s meeting – someone not at work – and is handed a copy of the document. Kryzanowski is then told several times to “sit down” by city officials.
Later, during the Public Comment portion of the meeting, Kryzanowski is told by one official that the issue of no agendas available at the meeting will be “corrected” at future meetings.
Penalties for Violating Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act
There are penalties for violating the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, which was last amended to include some of these very rules that appear to have been violated on Monday by the Gov. Tom Wolf administration back in 2021.
According to the state’s Office of Open Records, which is not the agency responsible for enforcing the Sunshine Act, violators could be subject to criminal charges and potential fines.
First-time offenses could cost between $100-1,000 and must be paid personally by those who break the rules of the Sunshine Act. Violations typically have to be “willful” in order to be enforced.
It appears Pottsville may have the ability to argue that its apparent violation on Monday was not willful, with the explanation for why it wasn’t posted online given at the meeting.
However, the city admits in this same meeting that hard copies of agendas are not typically available when Council meets for its regular meeting, which is a clear violation of the Sunshine Act.