HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the addresses of public employees
are protected by a right to “informational privacy.”
comes in response to a right-to-know request first filed by Simon Campbell
several years ago when he sought the addresses of area school teachers to whom he claimed
to be planning to send political mailers.
ABC 27, over time Campbell filed another right-to-know request in which he was
able to access the city, state and ZIP code information of private citizens who
had previously filed right-to-know appeals. He still was not able to gain
any such data for employees of the Office of Open Records.
his attorney, right-to-know expert Craig Staudenmaier, openly viewed that
development as a “double-standard,” arguing that the information
of private citizens was being made more readily available than that of government
employees, according to court documents.
its decision, the state Supreme Court concluded that the right to informational
privacy “may not be violated unless outweighed by a public interest favoring
In an opinion
written by Judge Joseph M. Cosgrove, the court added that in all such instances a
balancing act must first be applied that weighs the benefit of public dissemination
against those of private interests.
During the proceedings, representatives for Campbell argued that addresses are already public through property and voting
records. They added that the “slippery slope” aspect of the law that stood to
exist would ultimately make it more difficult for citizens to hold their government
Staudenmaier compared the situation to a game of Jenga, where every block you pull out
weakens the overall structure of the foundation until it comes to totally collapse, according to ABC 27.
Office of Open
Records Executive Director Erik Arneson countered that the double standard
argument fell flat because the two requests in question were for entirely
different sets of records. He added a public agency moving to release employee
information is quite different from releasing private citizens’ information
from public documents like appeals.
Arneson maintained that if any of the government employees had filed
right-to-know appeals as private citizens, the same information about them would
have been made publicly available, ABC 27 previously reported. He also said that public employee information like
addresses is already obtainable through other avenues.
A native of Great Britain, Campbell describes himself as a citizen
activist and believer in open and transparent government on his PARightToKnow website
reports he previously served on the Pennsbury, Bucks County School Board, and
during his time as a board member obtained and published the salaries and
benefit packages of teachers across the state.
also used the state’s open records law to pressure the Association of State
College and University Faculties to release salary and benefits information for
employees of its 14 state run institutions, eventually leading Association officials
to target him in a lawsuit, according to court records.
The case ended
in November of 2012 before making its way to the state Supreme Court after
Campbell pulled the plug on his crusade after investing $20,000 of his own
money in the long-simmering legal battle.