State Rep. Frank Burns has hired an attorney to proceed with legal action against the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in pursuit of records about how many restaurant liquor licenses are available in each county.
“I simply asked how many restaurant liquor licenses are able to be auctioned in each county, and it is shameful that we need a legal battle to obtain this necessary and basic public record,” Burns, D-East Taylor Township, said in a press release.
Burns said the Office of Open Records ordered the release of the information, but the PLCB appealed that decision.
Burns said he was forced to pay an attorney on his own and has hired Terry Mutchler, the founding executive director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records.
“Since the LCB wants the court to overrule the OOR, which recently sided with me, I can think of no one better qualified than Terry Mutchler to take up this fight for transparent state government,” Burns said. “I know firsthand that Terry has the passion to do what’s right and the legal know-how to handle my case effectively. I was hoping the LCB would see the light and this wouldn’t go to court. But since they chose this route, I’ve hired the best person that I could possibly find. Unlike the LCB, I won’t be paying my attorney using taxpayer dollars.”
Mutchler began her representation of Burns on Tuesday by filing an entry of appearance with the Commonwealth Court. She reiterated that she shares Burns’ desire to resolve this without litigation.
“It’s a basic public record, and it’s a bit sad that a state that has built a strong reputation for transparency is fighting over basic and black letter public record,” Mutchler said. “My hope is that the seasoned lawyers at the LCB and I can hash this out without costing taxpayers more money in a court argument. It’s unnecessary when the law is clear, and the OOR reviewer pointed out the LCB’s faulty argument and ordered release.”
Burns said one of the reasons he wants the information is to help him decide whether to support legislation that would increase the number of liquor licenses in Pennsylvania. He believes that knowing the number of licenses the LCB is already holding for auction is critical to making an informed vote on such proposals.