The Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) provides that the Office of Open Records (“OOR”) shall issue Advisory Opinions to both agencies and requesters, pursuant to Section 1310(a)(2) of the RTKL. The OOR has established the following guidelines for requesting an Advisory Opinion.
An Advisory Opinion provides an official written response to a question about the interpretation and application of the RTKL based on a specified set of facts provided to the OOR. The purpose of an Advisory Opinion is to provide written guidance to an agency or requester that may be relied upon in taking action. The views expressed in Advisory Opinions are those of the OOR and are not binding; they may be superseded by subsequent statute, OOR Final Determination or court ruling. Advisory Opinions cannot be provided in response to questions about actions already taken or matters pending before the OOR or the courts.
Commonwealth agencies and local agencies should rely on Advisory Opinions when considering Right-to-Know requests submitted to their agencies.
How to Request an Advisory Opinion
To request an Advisory Opinion, your inquiry must be submitted in writing. This can be in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or in a letter sent to:
Office of Open Records
400 North St., 4th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120
The request must:
Contain a clear, concise question of law and a complete and accurate statement of the relevant facts describing the situation upon which you desire guidance. Note that the OOR will rely upon the facts as you present them, and will not be responsible for seeking additional facts or making inferences regarding your inquiry;
Explain why the inquiry relates to the application and/or implementation of the RTKL;
State whether litigation is pending before the OOR or a court regarding any of the issues discussed in the request. Please be advised that the OOR cannot furnish opinions on questions pending before the OOR or a court; and
Provide the name and contact information of a person with whom the OOR may communicate about the request.
The OOR will review each request for an Advisory Opinion related to the RTKL and respond in writing within twenty (20) business days either granting or denying the request for an Advisory Opinion. Each response to a request for an Advisory Opinion will contain the following:
A description of the underlying facts and their connection to the proposed inquiry;
The name of the requester or agency seeking the Advisory Opinion;
Whether the request is granted or denied;
If the request is granted, the letter shall also include an expected date of issuance; and
If the OOR denies a request for an Advisory Opinion, the response shall explain the reasons for denying the request.
The law does not establish a deadline for the issuance of Advisory Opinions. The OOR will work diligently to provide the Advisory Opinion by the expected date of issuance included in the response; however, please be advised that issuance of an Advisory Opinion may take up to ninety (90) days from the date the OOR grants a request. In some cases, it may take longer. If a request for an Advisory Opinion is time-sensitive, please state the reason you believe it is time-sensitive and the date by which you would like the Advisory Opinion to be issued.
The following are considered public records under the RTKL and may be posted on the OOR’s website:
Requests for an Advisory Opinion;
Decisions to grant or deny requests for Advisory Opinions; and