Pennsylvania GOP hopes to receive McGinty email records before Election Day

HARRISBURG,Pa. -- The Pennsylvania GOP said a 30-day court order for the Governor's office to release thousands of pages of emails in an open records request isn't soon enough.

Pennsylvania Republicans asked Governor Wolf's office to release Katie McGinty's emails that she sent while she served as his Chief of Staff.

Not satisfied with the results, the state GOP took their case to the Office of Open Records and filed an appeal.

With a form from the Office of Open Records, anyone in Pennsylvania can file a request to obtain records from the local level, and up to the State Capitol.

Finding what someone is looking for, but one group believes there's no time to waste.

Everyone's right to know what government officials are doing in Pennsylvania, doesn't start at the state's Office of Open Records, but it could end there.

Office of Open Records executive director Erik Arneson said "we put the burden of proof on the government, to prove why records should be with held, and two, we gave requestors a free way to appeal denials."

Last year, the Pennsylvania GOO supplied 109 keywords to access Katie a McGinty's emails while she was Governor Tom Wolf's Chief of Staff. The governor's office said it released more than 1,500 pages of emails to meet the request, but the GOP appealed that it wasn't enough.

Friday, a Commonwealth Court ruled the governor's office has 30 days to release thousands more pages of emails, but with Election Day fast approaching, the deadline may not come soon enough for the state GOP.

Pennsylvania GOP deputy communications director Paul Engelkemier said "well, they've had more than 30 days, they've had over 400 days, since the initial request was made over 16 months ago."

The heated U.S. Senate race between Democrat McGinty and Republican Senator Pat Toomey is why some have called the GOP's request a fishing expedition, while Engelkemier stands by the public's right to know.

"We see it every two years, a little bit in the off year for some local things every now and then, but really every two years, it comes up a little bit," Arneson said.

"She was part of the process to propose one of the largest tax increases in the commonwealth's history, and was a part of the largest budget impasse in Pennsylvania history," Engelkemier said.

A spokesperson for McGinty said she's always on the side of transparency.

"She says she's on the side of transparency, but hasn't called for the release of the emails," Engelkemier said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Governor Wolf's office said it is reviewing the court's decision, and will take the appropriate action once that review is complete.

The governor's office two options at this point are to appeal the appeal or release the emails.

"On day 30, they need to have decided whether to do one thing or the other," Arneson said.

There are some pieces of information that may be off-limits in an open records request.

"The Right-to-Know law has 30 exceptions directly built into the law, that allow an agency to withhold records for various reasons," Arneson said.

There are no requirements to withhold information, but the allowed exceptions include records that might jeopardize public safety, or reveal personal information such as social security, and home addresses of law enforcement officers, judges, and minors.

The Office of Open Records received about 3,000 appeals last year, 90 percent of which don't make it to court. The office either rules in favor of the requester and the government entity complies, or the appeal is found to be invalid and the respective agency is released from the request.

In the McGinty email request, the appeal went to Commonwealth Court, which ruled in favor of the Pennsylvania GOP. Whether the state GOP receives the email records before Election Day is to be seen.

"I've never had the sense in this that anybody was purposely trying to drag their feet, it just it's a big request with with a lot of intricate kinds of issues that need to be decided," Arneson said.

Forms to file a Right-to-Know request may be downloaded from the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.