Is Borough Brushing Aside Records Laws?

By Dave Greber

July 27, 2012 Updated Jul 29, 2012 at 11:27 PM EST

Montrose, PA (WBNG Binghamton) Despite two court rulings forcing the Montrose Council to be more open to the public, questions continue to mount about its treatment of public records, specifically, how it keeps them.

All levels of government in Pennsylvania -- from borough to county to state -- are required to follow laws that govern how long public records are kept. Regulations for municipal and local governments are different from state governments and other non-governmental entities, such as school districts.

Action News requested July 2 the borough's records retention policy for police and incident reports, zoning complaints and correspondence among council members, among other documents.

The response from the borough July 19, however, revealed the borough does not follow such laws, even for basic records like police and incident reports.

For example, state law requires municipalities to keep police and incident reports for three years; longer if they're part of a criminal investigation.

That law is enforced by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Local Government Records Committee.

The borough denied the records request, stating: "After a diligent search of all available records, no such policy was found. Therefore it is deem(ed) not to exist".

State Archivist David Haury, of PHMC, said Friday that's incorrect, and that the borough is violating state law if they don't follow any policy.

“Every borough has a records retention policy because it is prescribed by the state," Haury said. But the fact that they (the borough) don’t know about it is problematic.”