It Aint Easy Getting E-ZPass Data

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: Boss, ya know how new open-records attitudes and new reform-minded electeds were gonna change the way Harrisburg does business?

BE: Yeah, I vaguely remember something about that, why?

JB: Well, in one interesting case involving turnpike employees' use of E-ZPass, that doesn't seem to be happening.

BE: Wait. Turnpike? That bastion of patronage? That bin of political favors? The agency run by the father of Corbett's campaign manager at $196,700 per annum, the guy reform-promising Corbett appointed back in March?

JB: Yep, that's the one. Anywho, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reports that a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel has reversed a state Office of Open Records decision and denied the newspaper's right-to-know request for access to turnpike employees' E-ZPass records.

BE: Why'd the newspaper want the records?

JB: Because the pike's former boss last year said about 2,000 turnpike employees use E-ZPass for free, whether for business or personal reasons. The newspaper wanted to find out how much that costs.

BE: A reasonable request.

JB: You'd think, especially in this era of open government.

BE: But?

JB: In an opinion written by relatively new Judge Patricia McCullough, the court ruled the workers are protected under part of the state transportation law that ensures privacy of electronic toll users.

BE: Yeah, but....

JB: Right, the newspaper argued, hey, these folks are getting employee benefits that should be open to public view.

BE: A sound argument.

JB: And the newspaper's editor, David Newhouse, said, "If the [turnpike] commission has nothing to hide, if they're willing to be held accountable, why not open up the records?"

BE: Makes sense.

JB: Sure it does. But no word yet on an appeal, or whether the always-reform-minded legislature will change the law, or whether the "I'm-gonna-change-Harrisburg" governor might step in.

BE: I think it's nice how you always seem to have hope for change.

JB: I think it's sad there's always some need to hope for change. Grrrr.