By Jamie Wiggan
During an Oct. 13 McKees Rocks business meeting, Councilwoman Liz Delgado inquired about the borough’s refusal to share public police records with Gazette 2.0, saying it reflects badly on the town’s elected officials.
“I don’t like the newspaper saying McKees Rocks doesn’t do such and such when a lot of us didn’t have a say,” she said. “…I want to know whose decision it is and why, and have the paper report that instead.”
Delgado’s comments refer to the police blotter page on the Gazette 2.0’s biweekly print issue, which includes crime reports submitted by several local police departments. The McKees Rocks department abruptly stopped submitting reports following the publication of one such report involving a councilwoman in February.
Gazette 2.0’s police report page now includes a disclosure of the borough’s ongoing refusal to submit reports despite repeated Right-To-Know law (RTK) requests.
Police officials said they are under orders from the borough to withhold the reports.
Responding to Delgado, Council President Paul Krisby said he was responsible for blocking the reports, although Pennsylvania borough codes do not grant that authority to council presidents.
Mayor Jack Muhr, whose elected position involves oversight of the police department, also chimed into the discussion.
“I don’t think we should do anything with the Gazette 2.0,” he said.
When the department stopped providing the records, Gazette 2.0 filed six consecutive RTK requests asking for “full-printed police arrest records/blotters” for periods of March and April.
Solicitor Megan Turnbull of Weiss, Burkardt, Kramer, LLC said the records were withheld because Gazette 2.0 “was looking for something more” than what is considered public record under Pennsylvania’s RTK law.
The law includes a list of exemptions that allow police departments to withhold records from the public, however the law clearly states these do not apply to police blotter information.
Through it’s legal representation at Weiss, Burkardt, Kramer,LLC, the borough never formally denied the requests, but issued preliminary responses requesting more time.
The preliminary responses stated each would be followed by final responses within 30 days – as stipulated by law – however no such final responses were filed.
Turnbull said she believes Police Chief Rick Deliman has continued sending redacted reports to Gazette 2.0 and suggested councilmembers consult Deliman to confirm this.
Gazette 2.0 has not received any reports from the McKees Rocks department since April.
For more information on the RTK process: openrecords.pa.gov.