It’s been almost eight months since Casey and Michelle Grove filed their first Right-to-Know Law request for Gregg Township records.
It all started because the couple, who live in the township, was trying to figure out why the township needed a tax increase, but they learned so much more, Casey Grove said.
Between the two of them, Casey Grove said they’ve filed about 30 RTK requests for township records.
On Thursday, the Groves and the township’s secretary and RTK officer, Jennifer Snyder, and solicitor, David Gaines, appeared before Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler.
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The matter before the court related to audio recordings of meetings made to assist in preparing the meeting minutes.
In October, Casey Grove had filed a RTK request with Gregg Township seeking copies of audiotapes from all 2016 township meetings, according to court documents.
The request was denied, and Grove appealed the decision to the Office of Open Records. The OOR determined that the audio recordings are public records and are subject to disclosure, according to court documents.
The township appealed that decision to Centre County Court of Common Pleas, and Kistler, on April 20, affirmed the OOR’s ruling, court documents say, which gave the township 30 days to provide the records in its possession.
Casey Grove filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus on May 22, stating that Gregg Township had not taken any action.
In the filing, Casey Grove requested that the court command the township to release the records, which is what was argued Thursday.
Gaines said there are no records to provide because all the audio recordings have been destroyed.
According to court documents, the audio recordings were used to prepare the minutes and then deleted.
The township relied on advice from its solicitor at the time, Robert Rayman, to stick to the regular audio recording destruction schedule. The township did not act in bad faith, Gaines said.
Gaines was appointed as township solicitor in January.
Kistler ordered that both parties will have seven days to submit written material to the court.
Casey Grove said he will ask the judge to impose penalties on the township.
There’s got to be some accountability, he said, adding that if the court doesn’t impose penalties it could set a precedent that other agencies could destroy documents after they’ve been requested through RTK.
It’s the second time the Groves have been to court for RTK-related issues, Casey Grove said.
Michelle Grove said they’re just trying to see more transparency in the township government.
In terms of their other RTK requests, some have been denied while others have been granted.
The public records they get are uploaded to Gregg Township Unofficial, a website Michelle Grove created for township documents, the township meeting schedule, information about the RTK Law and more.
Other people go home and watch TV, Michelle Grove said.
“This is what we do now,” Casey Grove said.
Among the other records the couple has sought in their RTK requests are security footage, Old Gregg School tenant leases and correspondence about Penns Cave Road.
Snyder said the RTK requests take time out of her day, interfering with her other township duties.
How much time it takes her depends on the nature of each request, Snyder said, adding that for one request she copied more than 500 pages.