Carbon ruling upheld in Right to Know case
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld the Carbon County court's ruling in a Right To Know case against board of commissioners.
On Tuesday, a memorandum opinion and order was filed by the Commonwealth Court in the case against Carbon County, filed by Robert Dages of Jim Thorpe.
The memorandum said that "The order of the Court of Common Pleas of Carbon County in the above-captioned matters is affirmed."
Dages, who appeared before the commissioners during their weekly meeting on Thursday, said he was "very disappointed" by the ruling.
"I'm here to communicate disappointment in regard to the decision in Commonwealth Court to uphold the commissioners," he said. "The work here is very similar to skilled deception. I'm very disappointed. The people lose. It's clear to me that you're operating principles are not what you pledge when you pledge to the flag or what you swear to when you take your oath of office."
The commissioners all said they had no comment on the ruling.
Dages' request for case law on the constitutionality of the industrialization of the Packerton Yards Business Park, cited by then Commissioner Chairman William O'Gurek, began on June 17, 2010, when guests at the commissioners' meeting asked about the constitutionality of the Packerton project.
Since then, he asked O'Gurek for the case law, but O'Gurek said it was protected by attorney-client privilege between the county and its then solicitor Michael Ozalas.
Dages then requested the information through the Right To Know officer in Carbon County. His request was denied.
He then appealed to the Office of Open Records office in Harrisburg, but again his request was denied because officials believed the case law was protected by attorney-client privilege, which is not subject to open records and the Right To Know Law.
Dages appealed both rulings to the Carbon Court of Common Pleas. The case was handled by Judge Steven Serfass, who on July 1, upheld the county and state officials ruling on the matter and denied his request.
On Oct. 24, Dages appealed the ruling to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, asking that Serfass' ruling be overturned because he felt, "this case is not about 'privileged communications' or 'privileged work product' as first claimed by the Carbon County commissioners and the county solicitor, and thus far repeated supported by others in government; but rather apparently the use of an unlawful scheme/procedure created out of thin air, two deceptive affidavits, and intentionally misinterpretation and misapplications of laws and 'case law' to hide the fact that there is no lawful constitutional authority for Carbon County and thus the county commissioners to purchase and develop private property using public funds in direct competition with private owners and/or developers and that there is no lawful case opinions ('case law') that support the commissioners' position."
The memorandum filed earlier this week states that Dages argued that the Office of Open Records and the Carbon County court "improperly relied on the self-serving and misleading affidavits submitted by the county to conclude that the requested information was privileged."
It also states that Dages never requested a hearing before either the Office of Open Records, or the Court of Common Pleas, or presented evidence to rebut the county's evidence in the matter.
"The affidavits submitted by the county and considered by the appeals officer amply support the determinations of the appeals officer and the trial court that the case law requested by Dages was protected by the attorney-client privilege and, therefore, did not constitute a public record subject to disclosure under the law."