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HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has refused to release his daily calendar, a policy that obscures many of the details of who he met and what he discussed.
The decision marks the new governor’s latest choice to break away from the practices of his predecessor and roll back transparency measures.
The Pennsylvania Public Records Service, an independent state agency that resolves right-to-know disputes, recently Judgment was handed down in Shapiro’s favour. And I found that I didn’t need to share the details of my schedule.
In response to a request for comment, Shapiro spokesman Manuel Bonder wrote that the office “publishes the governor’s public schedule directly to reporters daily,” and that Shapiro “regularly reaches out to communities across Pennsylvania.” “We visit and respond to questions from reporters and voters alike.” Federal citizens will continue to have access. “
Bonder added that the firm has complied with relevant public record rulings and “continues to strike a balance between personal safety and security while maintaining a high level of transparency.”
Beyond the public schedule, the calendar can be a window into officials’ jobs, priorities and close alliances. These typically indicate which officials, legislators, and nongovernmental officials will meet with the governor, when those meetings will take place, and what was discussed at various levels of detail.
Melissa Melewski, a media law attorney at the Pennsylvania News Media Association, of which Spotlight PA is also a member, said a state court ruled that public officials had virtually no right to share information at the time. Shapiro said he could make a decision that would provide more information. more.
“The Right to Know Act still allows governors to release these records,” Melewski said. “He chooses not to.”
The administration’s calendar policy came to light after a record release request from a pro-Republican organization investigating opposition to the Democratic Party. The group America Rising submitted a request for Shapiro’s work calendar shortly after taking office in January 2023.
The governor’s attorneys told the group that Shapiro’s calendar was personal, had no official purpose, and was not shared widely within the agency. That’s what Pennsylvania’s elected representatives have explained frequently at Calendar’s request. Lawyers argued that documents meeting these criteria should be classified as “personal notes and work documents,” and are not subject to state right-to-know laws.
Citing 2012 and 2014 federal court cases involving officials from the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Departments of State, respectively, OOR said: agreed.
America Rising senior vice chairman Alan Bleustein, who requested Shapiro’s schedule, acknowledged that Shapiro did so for political reasons. The organization regularly requests a Democratic governor’s calendar, especially early in his inauguration, he told Spotlight PA.
But Blutstein added that he believes there are bipartisan discussions about allowing authorities to access records such as calendars.
“Voters can see trends in terms of what groups governors are meeting with,” Blutstein said. “Who has access? Who has the governor’s ears? How often does the governor meet with staff to discuss issues 1, 2, and 3?”
Shapiro’s attorneys said the documents contained information about personal medical appointments, identities about minors (the governor has young children), and potential security risks, amid claims not to share calendars. It also said it contained information about the location of a
Blutstein said the governor’s office should simply compile that information and provide only what is relevant to state business. Government agencies often redact selected information when responding to requests for official documents.
“There’s nothing wrong with editing,” Bluestein said. “We can’t even get to that point here because the whole calendar is personal.”
Blutstein said he has not yet decided whether his organization will appeal the OOR’s decision in federal court.
The fight for the right to know over calendars is nothing new in Pennsylvania.
During Republican Governor Tom Corbett’s tenure from 2011 to 2015, the administration engaged in a lengthy legal battle with an Associated Press reporter who demanded the calendar early in the Corbett administration.
In that case, however, the Corbett administration provided some information. His office provided reporters with records showing who, when and where they met, but redacted the topic of the meeting.
The fight drew negative headlines for the governor at the time. one editorial He accused him of creating an anti-transparent “corvette fortress”. However, Mr. Melewski said he still provides more information than Mr. Shapiro.
“Mr. Corbett acted more cautiously than Mr. Shapiro,” she said.
At one point, Wolfe made transparency central to his campaign when he ran to face Corbett. make a statement Mr Corbett said he ran “the least transparent administration in history” and specifically accused Mr Corbett of editing the calendar.
“It all starts with governors who actually want transparency and openness,” Wolff said. told reporters Shortly after his election.
During his eight-year tenure, the Wolfe government Post a calendar at the end of each week It detailed when Wolfe arrived in Harrisburg and returned to his home in York County, who he met, and what he sometimes (but not always) discussed.
one tuesday For example, in Mr. Wolfe’s last year in office, he attended an early morning radio interview, visited a nursery school in Harrisburg, swore in the oath of office to deputy secretary, and attended a meeting with representatives of Congress with two deputy secretaries. outsourcing company in indiaand get updates from the Legislative Secretary.
This isn’t the first time Shapiro has beaten Wolfe on transparency.
As Mr. Shapiro prepared to take office, he had members of the transition team. sign a confidentiality agreementAnd unlike his predecessor, he declined to name the individual donors who funded the inaugural celebration.He also Relaxed Wolf’s notoriously strict gift ban For top state bureaucrats.
Regarding Shapiro’s recent decision not to share calendar details, Melewski said the governor has spent the past seven years running the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, which is exempt from most state information laws. It pointed out.
“There’s probably a learning curve,” she said.
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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/05/pa-josh-shapiro-daily-calendar-public-transparency/ Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro Keeps His Daily Schedule A Secret Pennsylvania Spotlight