UPDATE: Bucks County Mom Wins Partial Victory in Open Records Case Over COVID Rules
Bucks County mom Megan Brock won a partial victory over the county government in her open records case Friday before a Common Pleas judge.
Brock, of Richboro, is seeking emails from August 2021, when the county suddenly overrode COVID-19 guidance issued by its own Health Department Director, Dr. David Damsker. He said the science supported more parent-friendly, less-restrictive policies, a view confirmed in the following months. But he was overruled by Bucks County bureaucrats who imposed stricter state guidelines for masking, lockdowns and vaccinations, all unsupported by science.
The state Office of Open Records has already ordered the county to turn emails and other correspondence over to Brock, but Bucks County sued in an attempt to keep information about how they came to the override decision secret from the public. They argued Brock was not entitled to the records, despite the OOR ruling in her favor.
The county claimed the records were either attorney-client privilege or part of a “pre-decisional” process and therefore not subject to the right-to-know act.
Judge Denise Bowman heard the case and reviewed the records in her chambers. She ruled partly in favor of Brock and ordered the county to turn over some of the requested records and to pay her lawyers $1,500.
But the judge also found that the county had the right to keep some records private.
James O’Malley, a spokesman for the county, said the county’s lawyers were still in the process of reviewing the ruling on Friday evening.
After the ruling, Brock said, “This was a win for every person in Bucks County, regardless of political affiliation. Government transparency is a critical component of our constitutional republic. No one should be abused by their government or have their weaponized against them for simply doing their due diligence as a responsible citizen.
“Our kids have been thrown into crisis due to the harsh Covid-19 lockdowns and prolonged school closures. They deserve answers as to why and how these decisions were made, so that we can do better and learn from the mistakes of the past,” said Brock.
“I’m so thankful for this outcome and I can’t adequately express my gratitude to Judicial Watch and my attorneys, Chad Schnee and Meredith DiLiberto, for their exceptional representation,” she added.
Schnee said, “This decision was a victory for accountability and transparency, and we are very pleased that the judge imposed the maximum civil penalty allowed under the Right-to-Know Law.”
Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County Republicans also commented, calling it “a clear victory for transparency and the right of citizens to seek answers from those who should be representing them”.
“For nearly a year now, Democrats Bob Harvie and Diane Ellis-Marseglia have been using county resources to overrule decisions by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records in order to hide communications and documents generated when the county’s guidance for schools related to COVID suddenly changed in the midst of the pandemic. After a review of the hidden documents, the court sided with Brock.
“Pamela Van Blunk, the county controller, called the litigation the county brought against Brock a ‘waste of taxpayer dollars. Harvie and Ellis-Marseglia are irresponsibly spending taxpayers’ money to hide communications that the public—including Brock—have a right to see,'” said Poprik.