Penn State files to keep records under wraps

Published October 2, 2013
Old Main

Madison, Wis. – Penn State University filed papers this week to keep records related to its Sandusky investigation from becoming public.

Writing that the release of some emails sent to trustees would cause “substantial harm,” univeristy lawyers intervened in an appeal that challenged a decision by the Department of Education to withhold some records under the Right-to-Know Law.

The records at the center of the appeal contain an array of information about how Penn State’s leaders handled the Sandusky scandal. They include a series of emails discussing the establishment of the Special Investigative Task Force and the hiring of Louis J. Freeh; communication about the NCAA’s and Big Ten Conference’s role in the investigation; and banter about records leaked to the media just before Freeh issued his report.

Click here to view a list of the records that Penn State wants to keep secret.

The filing marks Penn State’s entrance into a battle over the release of records sent to former secretary of education Ron Tomalis, who co-chaired the Board of Trustees committee that oversaw Louis J. Freeh’s investigation. The Commonwealth Court ruled in July that records sent to Tomalis in his capacity as a member of the Board of Trustees are subject to the RTKL. Penn State stayed out of that fight.

In the wake of the July ruling, alumnus Ryan Bagwell asked for records sent to Tomalis from Louis Freeh, Ken Frazier, and former trustees Steve Garban and John Surma. The Department of Education released some records, but withheld 155 others that it argues are exempt from disclosure.

Bagwell appealed to the Office of Open Records, which agreed to review the records to determine if they are exempt from disclosure. On Monday, Penn State asked to participate in the appeal. Its request was granted yesterday.

“The university’s action is rife with hypocrisy,” Bagwell said. “For decades, Penn State has fought attempts to bring it under the auspices of the Right-to-Know Law. Now, it’s demanding the same protection from disclosure that it would enjoy if it were actually subject to the law. Trustees pledged transparency when the Sandusky scandal broke. But as soon as we get closer to understanding what went on behind the scenes, the university tries to slam the door in the face of its most important constituency.”

“Penn State’s leaders can’t have it both ways. It’s time for the Board of Trustees and administrators to grow up and decide what they to be – a model of transparent governance or a group that believes in secrecy above all else.”

Related filings:

Request for records to the Department of Education

List of withheld records

PDE’s argument against disclosure

Bagwell’s argument for disclosure

Penn State’s request to participate in the appeal

For more information, contact:

Ryan Bagwell

  • Ray Blehar

    Keep up the great work Ryan.

  • Tom Beatty

    In some states it is called the “Sunshine Law”. It looks like the Pennsylvania bureaucracy needs a little sunshine. They thought the firing of its head coach and President would create a “fire break” for the the power brokers. It is time we learn what Louis Freeh was up to, why the Governor slow walked the investigation for three years, and why the Sandusky “child welfare” charity was allowed to quietly close its doors and slink off into the darkness.

  • david shields

    Why would the BOT not be proud of their fine work investigating how PENN STATE enabled a child predator to roam the campus for years. Maybe we could even learn if the BOT followed charter rules when giving out an 8 million dollar contract would be interesting. Perhaps the OAG should expand its thorough investigation into obstruction of justice by reviewing all the BOT emails at least back to 2001.

    Release….the emails! Paging Senator Yudachak.

  • Katrina

    Keep up the pressure sooner or later someone with come out with truth that this is all lies to cover for Corbett and his group along with their dirty hands, lies, and personnel greed of many. The only thing that Sandusky is guilty of is showering with the kid out side of that NOTHING else happened. It’s lies that were built up by a few people that wanted to cash in and others that were out for personnel greed. Even a reporter made promises of money and book deals to build this case even worse then it really was. Everyone knows that Fisher book was ghost wrote by Gillum himself so he could cash. Also he used false memories which is garbage to begin with. Such a shame that there is a innocent man that in prison now while others such as Corbett dictate the court system to and records to keep from harming him and his gang. People of PA need to wake up and clean up their state.

  • psu1968

    in pennsylvania it must be known as the “Where the sun don’t shine” law…