Compliance With the New Sunshine Act Open Records Law
On June 30, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law an update to Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act. The update requires all local municipalities, government agencies and school districts to post meeting agendas on their websites 24 hours before meetings. You also have to provide copies of agendas at your meetings. As part of this new law, agencies and municipalities can not make decisions on items that are not included on the public agenda.
What are the Penalties?
According to the PA Office of Open Records, penalties include being assessed and attorneys’ fees. They also state, “any member of an agency who is found to have willfully violated the act can face criminal charges and subject to fines of $100 to $1,000 for the first offense, and $500 to $2,000 for the second offense.” Individuals facing these fines must pay them personally, an agency cannot pay the fine for you. A court can also award attorney fees to the prevailing party if it determines:
- that “an agency willfully or with wanton disregard violated the Sunshine Act.”
- that, “the legal challenge was of a frivolous nature or was brought with no substantial justification.”
How GovUniy Can Help:
GovUnity is a PA-based website design firm. Our websites are user-friendly, making it easy for your staff to update site content. With our agenda management module you can efficiently manage the meeting process. Upload, create, categorize, and approve meeting documents on your website. Upload agendas to the site for public view, or to a secure portal that only allows selected users access to content before it’s published. You can also place links to agendas and other documents in calendar events.
The new Open Records law became active on August 29th. PA government organizations that are not already in compliance with this law may be forced to postpone meetings or delay votes. Don’t fall behind because you missed the deadline. Contact GovUnity to experience the benefits of our technology and keep your municipality moving forward.