What Is Not Considered a ''Public Record'' ?
In Tribune-Review Publishing Company v. (DCED), 580 Pa. 80, 859 A.2d 1261 (Pa. 2004), the Supreme Court set forth the following discussion in deciding what does and does not constitute a "public record":
The substantive issue here concerns whether unfunded Program grant applications are "public records" within the ambit of Section 1(2) of the Act.
That section provides in relevant part that a "public record" is "[a]ny account, voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds by an agency . . . and any minute, order or decision by an agency fixing the personal or property rights, privileges, immunities, duties or obligations of any person or group of persons. . ." 65 P.S. 66.1(2).
The Act requires public access for "examination and inspection" only of decisional documents and writings that accompany or memorialize funding.
Therefore, the inquiry becomes whether "the log" falls within either of these categories.
Neither "the log" nor the information it contains could be characterized fairly as an account, contract, or voucher to accompany or memorialize funding.
Likewise, "the log" is not a minute, order or decision of DCED that fixes any rights, privileges, immunities, duties, or obligations.
While the database does indicate whether certain applications have been awarded Program funding, it is simply an electronic storage facility, and not a decisional document.
Moreover, we have recently confirmed that the Act is designed to require disclosure only of documents prepared by the government agency or at the express direction of the government agency. "The log" is compiled by DCED, but it is merely a collation of data provided by Program applicants. Whereas the Act allows the public to review agency documents, it does not permit public consumption of documents created by private entities, unless done at the express direction of the agency.
Consequently, a database that is simply an assemblage of information provided by applicants cannot be deemed a public record simply because the agency undertakes the secretarial task of inputting data. Tribune-Review, 589 A.2d at 1268.