Finding the Facts

a hand holding a magnifying glass with the title "finding the facts" underneath it.


ransparency is a fundamental building block of good government on every level. Taxpayers have an inalienable right to know how their money is being spent, and the government has an obligation to show its work. But there are limitations on what kind of information can be permissibly disclosed.

Pennsylvania lawmakers enacted the Right to Know Act in 2008. The act is primarily targeted at ensuring government financial transparency, something in which Mt. Lebanon already excels.

The municipality’s website,, contains comprehensive and popular annual financial reports for the past five years, current and previous municipal budgets, approved budget amendments and capital improvement programs. In addition, the website contains a trove of other information.

A look at April’s record of visits to Mt. Lebanon’s website show the most popular of the 70,528 page views centered on recreation—golf course, programs and classes, parks and recreation, swim center, ice center and several others. Also in the mix was road construction, recycling events, parking, tax, human resources fee payments and crime mapping. A little digging on the website can uncover a wide range of information. The Public Documents section has a collection that includes:

  • The Mt. Lebanon Code Book and Home Rule Charter
  • Several years’ worth of municipal budgets and fee schedules
  • Information on Mt. Lebanon’s stormwater fee and how to earn stormwater credits
  • A report on pavement management, and a street map depicting road conditions
  • The Commission’s 2019 and 2022 list of priorities
  • Naming criteria for municipal facilities
  • Mt. Lebanon’s cultural resource survey, which formed the basis for the establishment of the municipality’s National Register Historic District
  • The brick street reconstruction policy
  • The comprehensive plan and parks master plan
  • Current requests for proposals
  • A link to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records’ Right to Know Law Citizens’ Guide

Also available online: the police department’s policy manual, schedules and agendas of public meetings and minutes and video of past public meetings. Also, viewers can participate in the meetings from home over Zoom.

While public meetings are covered under the Sunshine Act, the act precludes disclosing anything discussed in an executive session. The act lists seven reasons an agency may hold an executive session:

  • Discussing personnel matters
  • Holding an information, strategy and negotiation session related to the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement
  • Considering the purchase or lease of real property
  • Consulting with an attorney about active or pending litigation
  • Discussing agency business which, if conducted in public, would violate a lawful privilege or lead to the disclosure of information or confidentiality protected by law
  • Discussing certain academic matters (this reason is specifically limited to certain institutions of higher education)
  • Discussing certain public safety issues if disclosure of the information discussed would be reasonably likely to jeopardize or threaten public safety or preparedness or public protection.

You can learn more about the Sunshine Act at

In 2023, Mt. Lebanon received 49 Right To Know requests for a variety of records.

If you want to file a Right to Know request, remember that you are seeking records and not just asking questions. The law governs the release of records, but does not allow for the creation of a record that previously did not exist, simply to answer a requestor’s question.

Once your request is filed, the agency has five business days to respond in writing, either to grant or deny the request—citing the legal basis for denial—or invoke a 30-day calendar extension. If you believe your request was improperly denied, you can file an appeal with the Office of Open Records within 15 days of receiving your denial. Your appeal must include a copy of the original request and a copy of the denial letter. You must state why you believe the requested record is  public record, and you need to address all grounds that the agency raised in its denial—why you believe each of the agency’s denial arguments and exemptions are incorrect.

an eye with an "X" through it

What you don’t have a right to know

Several types of records are exempted from disclosure under the Right To Know act. The act has a detailed list of 30 categories of exceptions, including any records that would be likely to result in a risk to a person’s physical safety or personal security, or records likely to jeopardize or threaten public safety. This could include any document that could jeopardize computer security by exposing a vulnerability in a system, antiterrorism protective measures and plans and building plans or records that expose vulnerabilities in public utility systems.

Other exceptions include:

  • Medical records
  • A record containing all or part of a person’s Social Security number, driver’s license number, personal financial information, telephone numbers, personal email addresses, employee number or other confidential personal identification number
  • A spouse’s name, marital status or beneficiary or dependent information
  • The home address of a law enforcement officer or judge
  • The name or other identifying information of undercover law enforcement officers
  • A performance rating or review, or written criticisms of an employee
  • Grievance material, including documents related to discrimination or sexual harassment
  • Information regarding discipline, demotion or discharge contained in a personnel file
  • An academic transcript