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Open Records Policy

Effective:          January 1, 2009
Last updated:  June 14, 2024

The City of Philadelphia has adopted a policy to comply with the Commonwealth’s Act 3 of 2008, 65 P.S. §§ 67.101 et seq., commonly known as the Right-to-Know Law. With certain exceptions, members of the public have the right to inspect and/or copy public records upon written request.

1. Definitions

Right-to-Know Law. Act 3 of 2008, 65 P.S. §§ 67.101 et seq.

Business day. Monday through Friday 8:30 AM through 5:00 PM, except those days when the City of Philadelphia, the main office of the Law Department, or the office, department, board, or commission to which a request is submitted is closed. For the purpose of this Open Records Policy, City Agencies are closed when any of the following applies:

  1. The City, the Law Department, or the particular City Department, Board, Office, or Commission operates on an “essential services only” basis;
  2. The City, the main office of the Law Department, or the particular City Department, Board, Office, or Commission is closed for four or more hours during regular business hours; or
  3. The City, the main office of the Law Department, or the particular City Department, Board, Office, or Commission closes for any portion of regular business hours on an emergency basis.

Public Record. Any document that satisfies the general definition of “public record” set forth in the Right-to-Know Law and does not fall within any of the exceptions set forth therein, as the definition and exceptions are amended from time to time and as the definition and exceptions are interpreted by state, federal, and/or local courts.

Open Records Officer. An official or employee of the City of Philadelphia officially assigned responsibility for receiving, tracking, and responding to requests for information under the Right-to-Know Law. The City of Philadelphia may designate a Deputy or Secondary Open Records Officer to act in the absence of an Open Records Officer.

Requester. A person who requests a record under the Right-to-Know Law.

Office of Open Records. The State Office, under the Department of Economic and Community Development, as explained in §1310 of the Right-to-Know Law. The Office of Open Records shall be responsible for many duties, including (but not limited to): issuing advisory opinions; training agencies and public employees; assigning appeals officers to review decisions; and conducting a biannual review of fees allowed under the Right-to-Know Law.

2. Open Records Officer

Please see below for the Open Records Officer specific to each City Department, Board, Office, or Commission. If no Open Records Officer is listed, please direct the request to the Open Records Officer for the City Law Department (Office of the City Solicitor). Please indicate the City Department, Board, Office, or Commission the request seeks records from. Please note that some independently elected officials—including the District Attorney’s Office—may have their own separate and distinct policies. You should consult their respective websites for information specific to their offices, including information concerning their respective Open Records Officers.

The City Law Department is not authorized to accept Right-to-Know Requests on behalf of the Philadelphia District Attorney. The Office of the District Attorney maintains a separate Open Records Policy; requests for that office should be directed to the Open Records Officer for the Office of the District Attorney.

Directing Requests:

  • The City Law Department represents the City on all Right-to-Know matters. Requests from lawyers or law firms must be directed to the Open Records Officer for the City Law Department and should indicate the Office, Department, Board and/or Commission the request is seeking records from.
  • Audio/Video Records from the Philadelphia Police Department Requests for audio, visual, or bodycam records from the Philadelphia Police Department must be made in-person or via certified mail following the instructions in 42 Pa.C.S.A. §  67A(3) (aka Act 22). Such requests are not processed under the RTKL. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 67A(2)(a); 65 P.S. §§ 67.305, 67.3101.1. You may use this form to make a request under Act 22. Requests under this Act should be addressed to: Lieutenant Barry Jacobs, Philadelphia Police Department, Open Records/Right to Know Section, Philadelphia Public Services Building,
    400 N. Broad St., 4W-72, Philadelphia, PA 19130.
  • Copies of Public Safety Reports: Copies of public safety records are available outside the RTK process directly from the Department of Records. Please file these according to the instructions online depending on the type of public safety record you seek. General information and specific report request forms are available at: https://www.phila.gov/services/crime-law-justice/get-a-copy-of-a-public-safety-report/
  • Specific reports available through this process includes:

    If you are not seeking a Public Safety Report, please direct your request to the appropriate City Open Records Officers:

    City Department, Board, Office, or Commission
    Open Records Officer
    Law Department, Office of the City Solicitor

    Phase I Environmental Assessments

    Any office, board, commission, or department not listed below. If you are not sure where to direct a request, please send it here.

    Feige Grundman, Chief Deputy City Solicitor
    1515 Arch St., 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 683-5008
    RightToKnowLaw@phila.gov
    City Council

     

    Online resources:

    Michael Cooke, Sr. Legislative Counsel & Chief Ethics Officer

    C/O Law Department Right to Know Unit, 1515 Arch St., 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 683-5008
    RightToKnowLaw@phila.gov

    Office of the Controller

    Online resources:

    Grace St. Vincent, Esq.
    1401 JFK Blvd, 12th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-8826 phone
    Grace.StVincent@phila.gov
    Office of the City Commissioners

    Online resources:

    • Online election resources & data such as election results, FAQs, political maps, Election Board training materials, as well as various reports and data
    • Multiple election-related datasets with filter/search/visualization tools at OpenDataPhilly

     

    Feige Grundman, Chief Deputy City Solicitor
    1515 Arch St., 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 683-5008
    RightToKnowLaw@phila.gov
    Sheriff’s Office LaVanda Harris, Open Records Officer
    Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, Undersheriff Unit
    100 S. Broad St., 5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19110
    LaVanda.K.Harris@phila.gov
    Office of the Chief Administrative Officer Heather Fay, Executive Assistant
    Municipal Services Building, 1401 JFK Blvd, Suite 630, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    Heather.Fay@phila.gov
    Sanitation Maria Vamvakidou, Sanitation Program Administrator
    Municipal Services Building, 1401 JFK Blvd, MSB7, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    Maria.Vamvakidou@phila.gov
    Philadelphia International Airport Etta Kennedy
    8500 Essington Ave, Executive Offices, Third Floor
    Terminals D-E,
    Philadelphia, PA 19153righttoknowlaw@phila.gov
    Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disability Services Ava Ashley, Health Program Manager
    1101 Market St, 7th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    (215) 685-5424
    righttoknowlaw@phila.gov
    Board of Ethics Thomas Klemm, Esq., Staff Attorney
    1515 Arch St, 18th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-9463
    Thomas.Klemm@phila.gov
    Board of Pensions & Retirement Shamika Taliaferro, Deputy Director
    Two Penn Center Plaza, 16th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19103
    (215) 496-7426
    Shamika.Taliaferro@phila.gov
    Board of Revision of Taxes Carla E. Pagan, CPE, Executive Director
    601 Walnut St, Ste 325 East, Philadelphia, PA 19106
    (215) 686-4343
    Carla.Pagan@phila.gov
    Civil Service Commission Virna Clay, Administrative Specialist 2
    1401 JFK Blvd, Ste 1640, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-2320
    Virna.Clay@phila.gov
    Department of Commerce Feige Grundman, Chief Deputy City Solicitor
    1515 Arch St, 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    RightToKnowLaw@phila.gov
    Commission on Human Relations Karen Forman, Esq., Principal Assistant
    601 Walnut St, Ste 300 South, Philadelphia, PA 19106
    (215) 686-4891
    Karen.Forman@phila.gov
    Office of the Director of Finance

    Budget Office

    Risk Management

    Online resources:

    Elizabeth Hanley, Deputy Finance Director for Administration, Development, and Training
    Office of the Director of Finance
    1401 JFK Blvd, 13th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-6203
    Elizabeth.Hanley@phila.gov
    Department of Public Health

    Office of the Health Commissioner

    Medical Examiner’s Office

     

    Tracy Jones, Executive Assistant
    1101 Market St, Ste 1320, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    (215) 686-5234
    Tracy.Jones@phila.gov
    Department of Public Property Feige Grundman, Chief Deputy City Solicitor
    1515 Arch St, 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    RightToKnowLaw@phila.gov
    Department of Revenue Rahul Sharma, Open Records Officer
    1515 Arch St., 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-6928Rahul.Sharma@phila.gov
    Department of Streets

    Online resources:

    • Visit StreetSmartPHL for near real-time information related to permits, paving, snow plowing, and daily trash and recycling collections.
    Herbert Lee, Administrative Specialist 2
    1401 JFK Blvd, 9th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102herbert.lee@phila.gov
    Department of Fleet Services Dr. K Wilson, Administrative Services Director
    100 S. Broad St, 3rd Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19110
    (215) 686-1844
    k.wilson@phila.gov
    Free Library of Philadelphia Christina Patton, Assistant to the Chief of Staff
    1901 Vine St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
    (215) 686-5306
    PattonC@freelibrary.org
    Division of Housing & Community Development

    City Planning Commission

    Philadelphia Historical Commission

    Developer Services Committee

    Feige Grundman, Chief Deputy City Solicitor, Law Dept
    1515 Arch St., 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 683-5008
    RightToKnowLaw@phila.gov
    Department of Labor – Labor Standards Unit Perritti DiVirgilio, Director of Labor Standards
    1401 JFK Blvd, Rm 170, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-2132
    perritti.divirgilio@phila.gov
    Office of Worker Protection Feige Grundman, Chief Deputy City Solicitor
    1515 Arch St., 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 683-5008
    RightToKnowLaw@phila.gov
    Licenses & Inspections

    Online resources:

    • Detailed property history is publicly searchable online and updated daily (licenses, permits, violations [including fire violations], appeals)
    • A property owner or the owner’s agent may request copies of building plans at the Permit and License Center as described under “Construction permits and plans
    • Multiple datasets with filter/search/visualization tools at OpenDataPhilly
    Tia Platts
    1401 JFK Blvd, Rm 1130, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-1441
    Tia.Platts@phila.gov
    Managing Director’s Office

    Office of Transportation and Infrastructure

    Office of Special Events

    Office of Emergency Management

    Online resources:

    • Orders and directives of the Managing Director’s Office
    • Find Phily311 data on all requests submitted since December 2014 with filter/search/visualization tools at OpenDataPhilly
    Kyle Allen
    1401 JFK Blvd., Ste 1630, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 683-4766
    Kyle.Allen@phila.gov
    Office of Innovation & Technology Steven E. Robertson, Esq., Chief of Staff
    (215) 686-8268
    steven.robertson@phila.gov
    Office of the Inspector General Alexander F. DeSantis
    601 Walnut St, Ste 300 East, Philadelphia, PA 19106
    (215) 685-1770
    Alexander.DeSantis@phila.gov
    Office of Property Assessment

    Online resources:

    • Find multiple datasets with filter/search/visualization tools for properties and assessment history as well as tax delinquent properties at OpenDataPhilly
    Drew Aldinger, Esq., Deputy Administrator
    601 Walnut St, Ste 300 West, Philadelphia, PA 19106
    (215) 686-4353
    RighttoKnowOPA@phila.gov
    Office of the Board of Administrative Adjudication Michael Giunta
    1401 JFK Blvd, Ste 630, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-5247
    RighttoKnowLaw@phila.gov
    Office of Homeless Services

    Office of Supportive Housing

    Jerome R. Hill
    Director of Compliance
    Special Assistant to the Director
    1401 JFK Blvd. 10th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    OHSRightToKnow@phila.gov
    Parks & Recreation Commission

     

    Ken Sheppard, MBA
    1515 Arch St, 10th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 683-3639
    PPR_RightToKnow@phila.gov
    Philadelphia Department of Prisons Gregory J. Vrato, Esq., Director of Policy Compliance & Legal Affairs
    7901 State Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19136
    (215) 685-7840
    Greg.Vrato@prisons.phila.gov
    Philadelphia Fire Department

    Online resources:

    • Instructions for obtaining Fire Reports outside the RTKL process.
    • Detailed property history of violations (including fire violations) is publicly searchable online and updated daily.

     

     

    Deputy Chief Dennis Merrigan
    3061 Island Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19153
    (215) 686-1362
    Dennis.Merrigan@phila.gov
    Philadelphia Water Department Sheilah M. Louis, Esq.
    1101 Market Street, 5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    (215) 683-6139Sheilah.Louis@Phila.Gov
    Philadelphia Police Department

    Online resources:

    Lieutenant Barry Jacobs
    Philadelphia Police Department
    Open Records/Right to Know Section
    Philadelphia Public Services Building (PPSB)
    400 N. Broad St., 4W-72, Philadelphia, PA 19130
    (215) 686-3277
    police.righttoknow@phila.gov
    Procurement Department

    Online resources:

    LaShawnda N. Tompkins, MBA
    Deputy Commissioner, Administration
    Procurement Department, City of Philadelphia
    1401 JFK Blvd., Rm 120, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-4760
    RightToKnowProcurement@phila.gov
    Department of Records

    Online resources:

    • Instructions for obtaining deeds, mortgages, easements, notary commissions, and other recorded records.
    • Multiple datasets with filter/search/visualization tools at OpenDataPhilly including data of all real estate transfers since December 6, 1999.
    Lynda Yerkov
    City Hall Rm 156, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    (215) 686-2268
    Lynda.Yerkov@phila.gov
    Sinking Fund Commission Christopher DiFusco, Esq., Chief Investment Officer
    1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd., 17th Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 496-7463
    Christopher.Difusco@phila.gov
    Treasurer’s Office Amanda Robinson, Executive Asssistant
    1401 JFK Blvd, Ste. 640, Philadelphia, PA 19102
    (215) 686-2300
    Amanda Robinson@phila.gov
    Water Revenue Bureau Arlene Reilly, Data Services Support Clerk

    Municipal Services Building, 2nd Floor
    (215) 686-6900

    Arlene.Reilly@phila.gov

    Office of the Mayor

    Online resources:

    Kathleen Lonie
    City Hall, Rm 204, Philadelphia, PA 19107
    (215) 686-0338
    kathleen.lonie@phila.gov

    3. Procedure

    The Right-to-Know Law requires that the City of Philadelphia act upon each non-anonymous written request when such request is made in person, by mail, by fax, or by email. The Right-to-Know Law does not require that the City of Philadelphia act upon an oral request, and the City of Philadelphia shall refuse to accept oral requests. Furthermore, the Right-to-Know Law does not require that the City of Philadelphia act upon an anonymous request, and the City of Philadelphia will refuse to honor an anonymous request. Finally, due to IT security risks, the City of Philadelphia will not accept requests where the details of records sought are submitted exclusively via hyperlink, the nor will responsive records be uploaded to an external hyperlink (outside of phila.gov) prior to advance and express arrangements with the Law Department.

    Pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law, the State Office of Open Records has created and published on its website a standard statewide form, which must be accepted by the City of Philadelphia for filing a request. (https://www.openrecords.pa.gov/RTKL/Forms.cfm).

    Effective February 1, 2012, the City of Philadelphia requires the standard statewide form be used for the submission of Right-to-Know requests, and will not consider a request to be a written request pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law unless the request is submitted on or with the standard statewide form. As of February 1, 2012, the City of Philadelphia considers any request not submitted on or with the standard statewide form to be an informal request not subject to the Right-to-Know Law.[1] If a requester submits a request on or with the standard statewide form after submitting an informal request for the same (or similar) records, the City of Philadelphia will consider the informal request to have been withdrawn. The City of Philadelphia reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to require a written request pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law before releasing records. A copy of the standard statewide form appears at the end of this policy.

    The Right-to-Know Law sets forth various specifications for the contents of a written request. To qualify as a written request under the Right-to-Know Law and the City of Philadelphia Open Records Policy the request must be:

    • Directed to the appropriate Open Records Officer,
    • Submitted on or with the standard statewide form, and
    • Contain at least the following information:
      1. Name of requester;
      2. Contact information of requester (either email address or physical address of requester); and
      3. Records sought, identified, or described with sufficient specificity to allow the City of Philadelphia to ascertain what records are being requested.

    Under the Right-to-Know Law, the City of Philadelphia has a duty to make a good faith effort to determine if the record(s) requested is a public record and to respond as promptly as possible under the circumstances existing at the time of the request; this time shall not exceed five business days from the date the request is received by the relevant Open Records Officer. The Law provides that either a final or interim response be provided to the requester within five business days from the date of receipt by the Department, Board, Office, or Commission. If there is no response within this five-day time period, the Open Records Request is deemed denied.

    The Right-to-Know Law and the City of Philadelphia’s policy contemplates that requesters will receive a response within five business days. The Right-to-Know Law, however, does provide the City of Philadelphia with specific reasons that may be invoked to receive a single extension of time that shall not exceed 30 calendar days. If the 30th calendar day falls on a day when the City of Philadelphia is closed, the deadline will be the following business day.

    If an extension is asserted and no response is provided to the requester within the 30-day time period, the Open Records Request is deemed denied. Additionally, if the City of Philadelphia notifies the requester it needs more than the maximum 30-day extension, the request is deemed denied unless the requester has agreed in writing to an extension to the date specified in the notice. If the requester agrees to the extension, the request shall be deemed denied on the day following the date specified in the notice if a response is not provided by that date.

    The City of Philadelphia’s final response to a request will:

    • Grant the request;
    • Deny the request;
    • Grant the request in part and deny the request in part; or
    • Grant the request and redact part of the information provided pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law and/or other applicable federal, state, and local law.

    4. Appeals of Denied Requests

    If a request for access to a record is denied (in whole or in part) or deemed denied, the requester may file an appeal within 15 business days of the mailing date of the City of Philadelphia’s denial as follows:

    Records Other Than Criminal Investigative Records

    Appeals of denials related to requests for records other than criminal investigative records must be directed to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records:

    Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
    Office of Open Records
    333 Market St., 16th Fl
    Harrisburg, PA 17101

    Criminal Investigative Records

    Appeals of denials related to requests for criminal investigative records must be directed to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office within 15 business days of the mailing date of the City of Philadelphia’s denial. Appeals to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office should be directed to the following address: District Attorney’s Office, Civil Litigation Unit, Open Records Appeals Officer, Three South Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107-3499.

    For All Administrative Appeals

    Unless the requester agrees otherwise, the Appeals Officer shall make a final determination which shall be mailed to the requester and the City of Philadelphia within 30 days of receipt of the appeal. Should the Appeals Officer fail to issue a ruling within 30 days, the appeal is deemed denied.

    Before a final determination is issued, a hearing may be held. The determination by the Appeals Officer shall be a final order. The Appeals Officer shall provide a written explanation of the reasons for the decision to the requester and the City of Philadelphia.

    Within 30 days of the mailing date of the final determination of the Appeals Officer, a requester or the City of Philadelphia may file a petition for review or other document(s) as required by rule of court with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

    6. Fees and Charges

    Fees for duplication of records have been established and posted by the State Office of Open Records. The City of Philadelphia will charge fees consistent with the State Office of Open Records regulations.

    The City of Philadelphia reserves the right to impose additional fees if it incurs costs for complying with a request, pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law; such additional fees, when charged, must be reasonable. This includes, but is not limited to, fees for enhanced electronic access and certified copies of documents.

    7. Written Policies and Regulations

    The City of Philadelphia and each Open Records Officer shall retain the discretion and authority to adopt any other written policies that are consistent with the Right-to-Know Law, and these policies, as amended from time to time, that they deem to be necessary or prudent, consistent with the Right-to-Know Law.

    View the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records Standard Right-to-Know Law Request Form (PDF).


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