Burns seeks Wolf’s support to shake loose public information from Pa. LCB

Cambria legislator asks governor to submit “friend of the court” legal brief

EBENSBURG, Sept. 26 – Appealing for help from the highest level of state government, state Rep. Frank Burns is asking Gov. Tom Wolf to file a “friend of the court” brief in support of his legal battle to obtain public information from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Burns, D-Cambria, sent official correspondence, highlighting that Wolf took office making “transparent government that works in Pennsylvania one of his top priorities,” and urging the governor’s help to put that philosophy into action.

Burns noted that he understands this is early in the process, however he wanted to provide the governor with plenty of advanced notice as a courtesy.  

“I am asking you to file an Amicus Brief with Commonwealth Court in support of my efforts to overcome the PLCB’s refusal to provide me – and thus the public – with a county-by-county breakdown of the number of restaurant liquor licenses this state agency has available for auction,” Burns wrote.

Burns continued, “The PLCB has put up stiff resistance to my request, to the point of arguing that such information is a ‘trade secret.’ As someone who shares my belief in transparent government, I hope you also share my belief that an agency that works for, and is paid by, state taxpayers should not be keeping ‘trade secrets.’”

Burns noted that although the state Office of Open Records sided with him and ordered the PLCB to release the information, the deep-pocketed state agency chose to appeal the matter to court, where it will spend precious tax money trying to keep the information secret.

“Unlike the PLCB, which has a battery of taxpayer-funded lawyers and unlimited financial resources to mount a court fight, I don’t have a million-dollar legal machine at my disposal,” wrote Burns, who has hired and is paying attorney Terry Mutchler, the founding executive director of the state Office of Open Records, out of his own pocket.

Burns also noted that Wolf is in a “strong position to reason with the PLCB,” since the governor recently appointed Mary Isenhour, his former chief of staff and senior campaign advisor, as a paid member of the agency’s governing board.

“As someone who has made transparent government a priority ‘since day one’ of your administration…I believe your expertise in this area and status as a champion of transparency would be invaluable in this fight,” Burns concluded.

Burns wants the information so he can make an informed decision on upcoming legislation that seeks to increase the number of restaurant liquor licenses. He wants to know how many licenses are already available for auction before voting for or against any additional license allotment.