PLYMOUTH – Councilman Clif Madrack wants a copy of the borough's proposed budget.
Borough Coordinator Joe Mazur says he can't have one, and that giving him access to a copy in the borough office meets any legal requirement.
Media attorney Melissa Melewsky disagreed. I think that's silly, she said of Mazur's stance.
Madrack, who served as borough administrator himself in the past, is completing his first year as councilman. He said he went to the borough building Tuesday morning and asked for a copy of the proposed budget council must vote on by the end of the month, but the request was denied.
They said they can't give me one because it's a proposed budget, Madrack said. Why would we not want to give a copy of the proposed budget to anyone?
Mazur said he is required to draw up a budget proposal and make it available for public review for 10 days before council votes on it, but not to provide copies.
He's not deprived of it, Mazur said. He's a councilman; he can sit there and look at it all day. But to put it out on the street, we would run into so many problems that you can never get a budget done.
Mazur said he talked to Solicitor Michael Kostelansky and was told making the budget available at the borough building was sufficient.
Mazur also said Kostelansky was sick and not in his office. A call to his office was answered by a recording.
The salient section of the state borough code says: Beginning at least 30 days prior to the adoption of the budget, a proposed budget or annual estimate of revenues and expenditures for the ensuing year shall be prepared in a manner designated by the council. The proposed budget shall be kept on file with the borough secretary and be made available for public inspection by the borough secretary for a period of 10 days.
But Melewsky, media legal counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said that, by definition, putting the proposed budget on display makes it a public record, which allows the public to obtain copies, though the borough could charge a reasonable copying fee.
I think that's what the law intends, I think that's what the law requires, and I think anything else is an artificial barrier to public access, Melewsky said.
But even if the borough is required to provide a copy of the proposed budget, the state open-records law allows the borough to take up the 30 days reviewing the request and the law. Under such a scenario, Madrack – and anyone else – would get a copy of the proposed budget about 20 days after the vote on the final budget, scheduled for Dec. 31.