The Right-To-Know Law (RTKL) authorizes the Office of Open Records (OOR) to establish an informal mediation program to resolve RTKL disputes (see 65 P.S. § 67.1310(a)(6)). This is a voluntary process to help parties reach a mutually agreeable settlement on records disputes before the OOR.
Mediation, a facilitated conversation between the parties that can serve as a fair and efficient tool to resolve conflict, can save time and expense.
How to Request Mediation
To participate in mediation, both parties must agree, in writing, to enter the mediation process.
When an appeal is filed with the OOR, the requester can check the box that says, "I am interested in resolving this appeal through OOR mediation." If the requester indicates an interest in mediation, the OOR will reach out to the agency to see if mediation is agreeable.
By entering the mediation program, the parties agree to participate in good faith.
What Happens During Mediation
Mediations are conducted by an OOR mediator. Most often, mediation sessions will take place via telephone conference. When convenient to the parties, a mediation session may take place in person.
Mediation sessions are not open to the public. All discussions, negotiations and materials created specifically for the mediation process are confidential. See 42 Pa. C.S. § 5949 (relating to the confidentiality of mediation communications and documents).
What Happens After Mediation
If mediation is successful -- in other words, the parties reach an agreement which resolves the issues underlying the appeal -- the requester will withdraw the appeal once he or she is satisfied with the agency's compliance with the mediated agreement.
If the appeal is withdrawn after a successful mediation, the OOR will not issue a final determination addressing the merits of the appeal. Instead, the OOR will issue an acknowledgement that the appeal was withdrawn as a result of a successful mediation.
If mediation is not successful, the traditional OOR appeal process will begin. Both parties will be able to make submissions to the OOR, and the OOR will have 30 calendar days from the conclusion of the mediation process to issue a final determination unless an extension is granted by the requester.
Mediation Request Form