Strattanville Denies Open Records Request for Proposed Firearms Ordinance; PA Media Law Attorney Says It’s Public Record
STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – Strattanville Borough may have opened up the proverbial “can of worms” when it decided to have its solicitor, Ralph Montana, craft an ordinance that would prohibit the discharge of firearms within the borough, except under certain circumstances.
The controversy began in July when a council member asked Montana to create an ordinance regulating firearms use in the borough after hearing possible gunfire in the borough on July 4.
According to borough secretary Roxanne Davis, the proposed ordinance was presented to council members at the last borough meeting on July 12.
Davis said no action was taken, but council members have the proposal and plan to discuss it at next week’s meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 9.
Since then, Montana and the borough have refused to provide a copy of the proposed ordinance to members of the media.
In a previous interview, Montana stated that it was crafted after an ordinance in place in Rose Valley Borough, Pa.; however, he wouldn’t share further specific details of Strattanville Borough’s proposed ordinance or provide a copy because he didn’t feel it was fair to council to have it “floating around out there” until they had a chance to read it.
After access was denied by the borough, a formal open records request was filed by exploreClarion.com on July 31 at 9:13 a.m.
The request – filed under guidelines within the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Act’s Right-to-Know Law – was denied by the borough approximately one hour later at 10:21 a.m.
(PHOTO: Email exchange detailing exploreClarion.com’s Right-to-Know Request and subsequent denial by Strattanville Borough.)
However, according to Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pa. News Media Association, once a proposed ordinance is circulated to members of a borough council, it becomes part of the public record and is subject to state Open Records reporting requirements.
“Once that’s done, they are required to provide copies of the ordinance to those who ask for it,” Melewsky said.
Firearms Owners Against Crime (FOAC), based in McMurray, Pa., has also weighed in on the matter, having its attorney, Joshua Prince, write a letter in opposition to the proposal.
“We are waiting to see what action they take,” FOAC Chairman Kim Stolfer said. “We hope they make the right decision.”
Stolfer said it was kind of surprising to see the genesis of Strattanville’s proposed ordinance and others like it.
“It’s something to see how these municipalities bend over backward when it comes to these things, but you would think the solicitor would have advised them better,” Stolfer said.
Stolfer said if Strattanville does enact the ordinance, the FOAC will take court action and also seek criminal penalties because municipal firearm and ammunition regulation is unlawful pursuant to Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, as affirmed by the PA Supreme Court in Ortiz v. Commonwealth, and the state preemption statute found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120.
Montana did say in a previous interview that the ordinance will be available at the Wednesday, August 9 borough meeting, but wasn’t sure if it would be voted on.
Calls to Montana for further comment have not been returned as of early Friday morning.
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