When Decisions Matter.


Office of Open Records Rules on FOIA Buddy Appeal

Agencies may deny anonymous Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) requests under a Final Determination issued by the Office of Open Records (“OOR”) on June 20th, 2024. In the Matter of Frank Curry and FOIA Buddy v. South Western School District, the District, represented by Stock and Leader, successfully argued it could deny anonymous requests under Section 702 of the RTKL, which allows discretion in fulfilling such requests. In this case, the District’s policy mandates that requesters must be legal U.S. residents, and the District website indicates that anonymous requests will not be processed.

In its position statement, the District contended that the requester’s information alone did not confirm qualification as a requester under the RTKL. The District was able to demonstrate through a series of exhibits how FOIA Buddy’s system facilitates anonymous requests by generating contact information unassociated with the actual requester. The OOR agreed, and concluded that the District was justified in denying the requests because they were anonymous in nature based on the evidence presented. The finding was based largely on the fact that the District’s Right-to- Know Policy indicated that it would only fulfill requests of U.S. residents and advised on its website that anonymous requests would not be fulfilled. Consequently, the OOR rejected the appeal and affirmed that the District was not obligated to proceed further.

We strongly recommend that each municipality have a policy in place regarding the denial of anonymous requests. This policy should clearly state the requirements for requester identification as a U.S. resident and the denial of anonymous requests. This information should also be publicly available so that all requesters are aware that anonymous requests will be denied. By implementing such a policy, your organization can ensure compliance with the RTKL and avoid potential disputes or misunderstandings regarding the fulfillment of information requests.

As always, should you have any questions regarding this case or need assistance in creating or revising RTKL policies, please contact one of the attorneys in the Municipal Group at Stock and Leader.

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