Tobyhanna Township Loses Another Open Records Appeal to STR Activist

SEP 20 2022, 8am

HARRISBURG – Tobyhanna Township has lost another appeal to the state Office of Open Records over the refusal to disclose documents.

Both cases involved requests from resident Miguel Strada, one of the active leaders of the group of residents and business owners opposed to the township’s strident STR ordinance.

Resident and short-term rental owner Miquel Strada, who also goes by Mike Camino, addressing sup[ervisors on the then-proposed STR ordinance, has won two fights with the township over the release of documents relating to STRs. (Boro File Photo)
We previously reported that in June the OOR ordered the township to turn over records of a secret meeting between the board of supervisors and potential short-term rental administrators.

The agency rejected the township’s claim that the meeting was exempt from the Sunshine Act and the Open Records Law. Ruling the supervisors were in violation of both, they ordered records of the meeting disclosed. The supervisors authorized their lawyer to appeal that decision and the case is pending.

The second OOR appeal, decided this month, involved Mr. Strada’s requests for emails concerning the short-term rental ordinance, and “any construction code, building code, zoning code or any other similar determinations or opinions or suppositions of fact related to the Short Term Rental Ordinance.”
In denying the request, the township argued that legal exemptions excused the township from turning over the documents. They also claimed no documents existed.

In rejecting the township’s position, the OOR indicated that making several arguments in favor of the exemptions applicable to documents that supposedly did not exist raised concerns. But the decision turned on the state’s finding that the township’s “search” for documents was not shown to be consistent with its obligation to conduct a “good faith” search for responsive items.

“The Township’s evidence does not provide any details regarding the search,” the OOR appeals judge wrote. “Furthermore, half of the substantive averments . . . consist of statements in support of the ( ) exemption, when the Township argues that no records even exist. Accordingly, the Township’s evidence regarding the non-existence of responsive records is conclusory, and as a result, the Township has not met its burden of proof.”

The township has also filed an appeal of that decision to the state court of common pleas in Stroudsburg. The court has set a hearing on the Township’s appeal for November 28, 2022.

{Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to reflect the proper spelling of the STR activist. It is Miguel Strada, not “Miquel.” We apologize for the error.}

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