Following towing investigation, borough labels public records requests ‘disruptive’

CAMP HILL, Pa. (WHTM) – Camp Hill Borough continues to deny public records requests about towing practices, recently labeling requests from two ABC27 reporters as “disruptive.”

In November, ABC27 aired an investigation into Camp Hill and West Shore Regional police favoritism of G.A. Smith Towing in a way drivers say is costing them more money and taking away their choices. Camp Hill denied the right to know requests ABC27 filed for that story, and appealed a decision from the Office of Open Records that ordered the borough to turn over public records.

At one point, Camp Hill claimed requested towing emails to council members did not exist. Through independent sources, ABC27 obtained a towing email that met the criteria of the request.

Over the last several weeks, ABC27 has filed several additional right to know requests with Camp Hill about towing and issues surrounding transparency. The borough has denied the majority of those requests, saying the records do not exist.

In a letter received on Dec. 19, 2017, the borough denied reporter Amanda St. Hilaire’s request for emails, text messages, and Facebook messages to and from the police chief from 2011 through 2017 about a mechanic at G.A. Smith, towing, and police vehicle maintenance and repair work.

In the denial letter, Camp Hill says the records do not exist, labels the request as “disruptive,” and threatens to pursue reimbursement of legal fees. Under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, a request is disruptive “if the requester has made repeated requests for that same record and the repeated requests have placed an unreasonable burden on the agency.”

St. Hilaire outlined concerns about the “disruptive” label when she appealed the denial to the Office of Open Records. She also asked the Office of Open Records to do an in-camera review of Camp Hill communications to verify that the records in question do not exist.

When Camp Hill denied St. Hilaire the records, ABC27 reporter Dennis Owens attempted to obtain the records in his own right to know request. The borough also labeled his request as “disruptive.” Owens appealed.

The borough did grant a request for itemized legal bills showing Camp Hill spent at least $3,334 over eight months fighting ABC27’s efforts to obtain public records (click here and here to see the invoices), and a request for a $2,000 check from G.A. Smith Towing to Camp Hill Borough Police after police decided to use the towing company as a primary vendor.

 

 

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