Harrisburg appeals order to name donors to defense fund for gun regulations

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | May 29, 2015 4:58 AM

(Harrisburg) -- The city of Harrisburg is going to court over a fight to publicly identify donors' to its legal defense fund, which is meant to pay for defending the city's gun regulations.

The appeal argues turning over the names could lead to harassment of contributors to the fund.

It was filed Wednesday and suspends a state Office of Open Records ruling ordering Harrisburg to turn over the information after attorney Joshua Prince requested it.

The spat, tied to lawsuits over gun regulations, stretches back months. 

Prince says he wants the information because the public has a right to know. He also filed one of the original lawsuits over the gun regulations themselves.

But Mayor Eric Papenfuse won't say if the city would give up donor details, even if it loses in court.

"Our legal department feels very strongly about this precedent. They feel that those names should be protected, and they're willing to go all the way, all out, to protect them," he says.

An open records expert argues the city might have won the case initially if it had submitted sworn statements to the state, but City Solicitor Neil Grover says he's not sure it would have made a difference.

Papenfuse says that puts another burden on the city.

"I think it's pretty ridiculous to think that you need sworn statements for every Right to Know inquiry. You can imagine how that as a precedent would create an enormous workload for not just Harrisburg but for any municipality," he adds.

The city argues the donated money isn't benefitting any specific public official, but government as a whole, so it's exempt from disclosing donor names. 

Papenfuse admits the case is high-priority, but one of many the city is juggling. 

Harrisburg's appeal to ruling ordering disclosure of donors's names

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