October 3, 2015
A court decision is expected Monday after the school board appealed a Pennsylvania Department of Open Records order to release budget information to a local woman. Judge Mark Tunnell's expected ruling will end the 9-month odyssey for a Landenberg woman who has been trying to get budget information from AGSD. The board has employed 3 lawyers in its efforts to keep the budget secret.
On Monday, September 28, a woman from Landenberg had a hearing in front of Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Tunnell asking that the AGSD make public budget information under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know laws. The district, represented in court by 2 lawyers from Unruh, Turner, Burke, & Frees as well as the District's Superintendent and Business Manager, argued that the budget should remain secret.
AGSD Superintendent Chris Marchese, Business Manager Daniel Carsley, and 2 lawyers from the firm Unruh, Turner, Burke, & Frees faced Landenberg resident Jamie Cox, who represented herself without an attorney. Ms. Cox had never been in a courtroom before.
Under Pennsylvania law, all records for public institutions are presumed to be public, with a few specific exceptions related to law enforcement, security, or personal privacy. The law establishes the burden of proof on the government agency to prove that the requested information falls within these exceptions. Otherwise, the information must be made public.
Judge Tunnell commented during the hearing that he had no previous direct experience with Right-to-Know cases because they seldom reach the courts. The school board has refused to comment about the case to local residents, except to say the case was under review.
We urge all residents of Avon Grove School District to contact their school director and ask them why this information must remain secret. The budget represents financial commitments made by the school board. Taxpayers are responsible for 100% of these commitments and have a legal right to know what they are.
Ask your school director why the board refuses to make the budget information public.