Are Recorded Emergency Telephone Calls Considered ''Public Records'' ?

In North Hills News Record v. Town of McCandless, 555 Pa. 51, 722 A.2d 1037 (1999), citizens sought access to tapes of all telephone calls to a town's emergency center relating to a fatal shooting, which pertained to the "minutes, order or decision" category. The party asserting a right of access to material in this category must establish that it: (1) was generated by an agency as defined in the Act; (2) constitutes a minute, order or decision; (3) fixes the personal or property rights of some person or persons; (4) is not protected by statute, order or decree of court. Id. The second and third requirements had been interpreted to include not only actual determinations fixing rights and duties but also materials that form the basis for such determinations and are essential components or otherwise derive from the decision. The Supreme Court stated that this Court had recognized a range of documents that lacked a sufficient nexus, such as copies of responses to a government-sponsored prevailing wage survey, and had observed that "'a decision fixing the rights or duties of a person is just not the same as gathering information, notations and evaluations that may or may not be utilized at some future time to fix rights and duties.'" Id., 555 Pa. at 57, 722 A.2d at 1040 (quoting Aronson v. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, 693 A.2d 262, 265 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1997)).