As most of our viewers are aware, on February 25, 2015, I submitted a Right to Know Law (RTKL) Request on the City of Lancaster in relation to the litigation of NRA v. City of Lancaster and the defense fund it instituted to pay for that litigation. Specifically, I requested the following:
This is a request for all records, including, but not limited to, financial records pursuant to Section 102, since January of 2015, relating to the National Rifle Association (NRA) v. City of Lancaster, including, but not limited to, the following:
(1) All records, including, but not limited to, City of Lancaster’s Legal Defense Fund, information of which can be found at http://www.commonsenselancaster.com and http://www.cityoflancasterpa.com/blog/message-mayor-gray-nra-lawsuit. As provided for by Section 102, this specifically includes, but is not limited to, the names, addresses, and amounts of any donations to/receipts by the City of Lancaster;
(2) All records, including, but not limited to, all financial accounts and financial institutions utilized by the City of Lancaster, in relation to request (1);
(3) all records, including, but not limited to, contracts, communications, and billings, from or to Dechert, LLP or any other law firm or attorney hired to review the legal issues relating to request (1); and
(4) Any other record in any way relating to the current litigation in NRA v. City of Lancaster.
On March 4, 2015, the City requested 30 days to respond, which it is permitted under the RTKL. On April 1, 2015, I received a response from the City stating that “Your request is granted” and that the records would be disclosed upon my payment of $104.50. It is notable that no exemptions were claimed in the response; rather, as reflected on the face of the March 4, 2015 letter, my request was granted.
Understanding that the City had granted my request in full (per the City’s April 1, 2015 letter stating such), I paid the $104.50 (418 pages at .25 cents per page). On April 6, 2015, I received the City’s disclosures, now denying in part my request and claiming exemptions not previously asserted. (Nice how that works; AFTER someone has paid pursuant to an understanding that the request was granted in full, they then deny in part the request…but, I digress. This will be an issue for the Office of Open Records (OOR) in my future appeal). The City categorized the disclosures into 12 sub-parts (A – L). The categories and links to download the applicable documents are as follows:
Production A. Legal Defense Fund Account Screen Print
Production B. Online Contributions to 3/27/2015
Production C. Cash and Check Contributions to 3/27/2015
Production D. City of Lancaster Cash Account Fulton Bank
Production E. January 2015 Solicitor’s Invoice
Production F. February 2015 Solicitor’s Invoice
Production G. Insurance Claim Documentation
Production H. City emails Regarding NRA Lawsuit
Production I. Emails with Travelers Regarding Coverage of Defense of Lawsuit
Production J. Emails regarding Media Communication NRA lawsuit, establishment of legal defense fund, and process to set up communications website, use of funds
Production K. Emails regarding Prince Right to Know Request
Production L. Emails from Mayor
In Production A., it reflects that the City has taken in over $18,000 in donations. Of course, contrary to their original grant of my request, they redacted the donor names and contact information. Again, this issue will be addressed in my future appeal to OOR.
In Production G., Travelers’ January 30, 2015 letter, (pdf pg 6) is enlightening. Specifically, on pdf pg 8, Travelers reviews its exemptions for “wrongful acts.” Travelers’ letter goes on to state:
To the extent that Plaintiff seeks damages in connection with a “wrongful act” committed by or on behalf of the City in the conduct of the City’s duties, the following exclusions may apply;…
Well that doesn’t sound good…So, let’s see what the Carrier goes on to disclaim on the next page:
Plaintiff requests a declaration that the Ordinance is pre-empted by state statute. Plaintiff also seeks to enjoin the City from enforcing the Ordinance. To the extent that any loss, cost or expense for complying with any injunctive or other non-monetary relief is assessed against the City, there would be no coverage for those damages. In addition, the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief do not qualify as damages under the Policy. Therefore, the injunctive, declaratory and non-monetary relief claims are disclaimed.
Uh oh…last I checked, Section 6120 applied to declaratory and injunctive relief, unless the party had actual damages. Maybe, I’m in error, as it has been at least 2 hours since I’ve thought about Section 6120. Nope, Section 6120 (a.2) provides that an aggrieved individual “may seek declaratory or injunctive relief and actual damages.” Since actual damages are not in play in NRA v. City of Lancaster, the City is liable for ALL costs and fees awarded by the court, contrary to Mayor Gray’s statement that the City only has a $25,000 deductible. I think the residents of Lancaster might be interested to learn that per Travelers’ disclaimer, they’re on the hook for ALL the fees and costs associated with this litigation.
Butl, Travelers isn’t done yet.
The Complaint seeks punitive damages if available. Directly assessed punitive damages are uninsurable in Pennsylvania and any award for such punitive damages would not be covered by the City’s policy with Travelers.
Wow…that’s too bad because those multi-million dollar verdicts tend to result from punitive damages. I guess the taxpayers will have to cough up that money, as well, all because the Mayor and City Council believe they are above the law.
But things only get worse in the disclosures.
In Production J., (pdf pg 42) Patricia Brogan, Mayor Gray’s Chief of Staff declares:
Actually, I NEED dope…
This stuff is too good to make up. I wonder if the good Mayor will oppose the drug laws and defend his Chief of Staff in her need for illicit drugs. Inquiring minds want to know Mayor Gray…
More interesting tidbits from the disclosures include the City’s relationship with Everytown for Gun Safety (formerly Mayors Against Illegal Guns – boy, they sure do change names frequently, especially when a lot of their members are convicted of deplorable crimes) (Production J. at pdf pg 65). Production J. also reflects the City’s desire, from the start, to utilize any donations for purposes beyond the litigation in NRA v. City of Lancaster. See, Production J. at pdf pg 143.
There are some more beneficial tidbits in the disclosures that I’ll save for later…like during the appeal or when the time is right. Someone in the City might want to take a second look at the IRS exemptions…especially, when the case law already establishes that a lost and stolen ordinance violates pre-amendment Section 6120.