Support HB 95: Stop SLAPP Suits in Pennsylvania!

Support HB 95: Stop SLAPP Suits in Pennsylvania!

Chief Sponsor, State Rep. Russ Diamond (Home Page)

Friday, September 20, 2019

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PSBA's LAWSUIT EXPLAINED

On July 17, 2017, PSBA sued me for three (3) alleged torts:

  1. Defamation (posting images and opinions you see on this site that they don't like)
  2. Tortious interference with contractual relations (with government agencies)
  3. Abuse of process (using the Right to Know Law in a way they don't like)

On the filing day (before I had been served the lawsuit) PSBA sent this e-mail blast all over PA to its government agency members gloating about filing the suit.

PSBA don't like a RTKL request that I made in May 2017 (alleging it was "abuse of process" and "tortious interference")

On c. May 8, 2017 I sent this this Right to Know Law request to approx. 600 public school entities. Items 15-21 sought to know what PSBA is doing with the millions of dollars of public money it gets sent. On the final page of my May 8, 2017 request, I encouraged the Open Records Officers and/or solicitors who would be processing my request to watch a video on the "Investigate PSBA" page of Pennsylvanians for Union Reform's (PFUR) website. Lobbying and advocating for my own request with government (well, 600 governments!). Petitioning speech to the government is protected by the First Amendment. You can watch that speech here. While I was video lobbying for the release of records, PSBA was doing its own lobbying i.e. advocating for denials re: Items 15-21. PSBA told its government agency members that it "represents the interests of many private for-profit ...corporations, which are at stake if this part of the request is granted."

Scores of PSBA-member government agencies agreed with me that the records must be released

Many agencies agreed that records in the possession of PSBA relating to items 15-21 were releasable via Section 506(d) of the RTKL. There is court precedent on this point.  These agencies wrote to PSBA to try and get the records but were rebuked by their own association. Here is just one of many examples (solicitor for the Dover Area School District):

"My office has reviewed the request presented by Mr. Campbell and has determined that what he has requested is a public record in custody or possession of PSBA which is contracted to perform governmental function on behalf of the agency and which directly relates to governmental function and is not exempt under the Act as found under 65 P.S. §67.506(d)(1).

Therefore, in an attempt to respond in a timely manner to Mr. Campbell's RTK request, I am asking PSBA to provide said documents or a written response to our request no later than Friday, June 9 so that we will be able to provide an adequate and timely response to Mr. Campbell by June 14, 2017."

PSBA are in essence complaing about the law and its members interpretation of the law.  It is self-evident that when an agency believes it has public records releasable via Section 506(d) the agency must contact the third party to get those records. Also, Section 707 requires third parties to be notified if there might be a trade secret or confidential proprietary interest at stake.

PSBA don't like critical speech of their taxpayer-funded activities (alleging it is "defamation")

The Investigate PSBA page on PFUR's website remains preserved in non-public copy mode where the viewing statistics for the page have been preserved. I have re-created the "Investigate PSBA" page for public view on this website so you can see what it said, and I put the videos on my personal YouTube channel. Click Investigate PSBA to see it. PSBA also objected to a webpage called "PSBA Horror" on PFUR's website, alleging that it had defamatory material on it. That page also remains in preserved copy non-public view mode on PFUR's site. But again, it too, has been re-created and re-published on this website so you can see it. Click PSBA Horror.

PSBA initiates lawsuit in Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas on 7-17-17

Barely four days after I sent my May 8, 2017 request to its government members, on 5-12-17, PSBA General Counsel Michael Levin (who is also a school solictor for school districts) sent this Cease and Desist letter (my response is included). On 7-17-17, PSBA initiated its lawsuit in the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas. The lawsuit alleges that my activities are illegal in three ways: 1. Defamation. 2. Tortious inference with contractual relations (with government agencies). 3. Abuse of process. [There is no civil tort called harassment. That is a fabricated word used by PSBA for dramatic effect].

PSBA apparently "believes it is highly unlikely" that I caused them financial harm, and further stated that its lawsuit claims are merely a "theory"

Between the dates of July 21 and July 23 (i.e. after I learned of the lawsuit) I sent another statewide RTKL request of PSBA's government members. Just shy of 600 agencies got it. Request Item #10 had me seeking:

"All records evidencing a decision of the [agency] to send less public money to [PSBA] for no other reason than words spoken or written by Simon Campbell or Pennsylvanians for Union Reform between the dates of 1-1-17 and 7-20-17 convinced the [agency] of the need to send less public money to [PSBA]."

PSBA quickly found out about this new statewide request. One of their staff attorneys, Emily Leader, sent an e-mail blast with her 'guidance' for PSBA's member agencies to consider. In reaction to my Request #10, PSBA's guidance of July 25, 2017 states that PSBA didn't believe any agency has made a decision to not send them money because of any decision-criteria based solely on my words! Well, for any lawsuit to prevail, the Plaintiff has to allege some kind of actual harm caused by the defendant! Yet in PSBA's olwn words they don't believe I caused them financial harm. In addition, if you read PSBA attorney Leader's response to request items 3, 6, 7, 8 you see her refer to PSBA's own lawsuit arguments as being a "theory".