Sunshine Fund Update

Published January 20, 2014

Ryan Bagwell, founder of the Penn State Sunshine Fund, provided the following update to contributors yesterday.

Last week, something unexpected happened – Tom Corbett’s office released 88 pages of documents. The records show, among other things, how the Corbett administration tried to shape a key board statement about why it fired Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier.

The Office of Open Records had ordered the records’ release last month. My attorneys and I had fully expected Penn State and/or the governor’s office to appeal the OOR’s ruling. But to our surprise, the appeal deadline passed without any such filing, and the OOR’s order became final.

Months ago, I had decided not to appeal the OOR’s decision unless the other side did so first. That’s because I already knew what the records contained. A few months ago, the governor’s office sent me unredacted copies of all contested records, apparently by mistake. But before my attorneys advised me to delete them, I had reviewed the records, and therefore knew that they would not help us understand how Louis Freeh was allowed to compose a report with unsupported conclusions.

The lack of appeals in this matter frees up Sunshine Fund money that had been earmarked for defending our right to these records. We’ll need it, because two appeals are on the horizon.

First up is a challenge to a decision that allowed the Department of Education to withhold 150 pages of emails and other documents between Ken Frazier, Ron Tomalis, Louis Freeh and others. On Thursday, appealed that ruling to the Commonwealth Court, arguing that Penn State waived the attorney-client privilege when it allowed Louis Freeh to “continuously interface” with five state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the NCAA.

Also looming is another appeal of a request for public records from the Attorney General’s office. A final response for that office is due Wednesday. Unfortunately, the initial denial must first be appealed to the same agency that denied it in the first place – the attorney general’s office. But that will pave the way for another appeal to the Commonwealth Court, which will independently review the case and decide whether the records must be released.

Fund status

As of today, we’re $5 away from reaching $13,000 in total contributions. After deducting credit card and PayPal fees, the fund’s net contributions total $12,641. None of it has been spent yet, although a bill from the lawyers is on its way. So please continue to encourage your friends and family to contribute to the Sunshine Fund.

Slowly, we’re making progress. Keep the faith, and don’t give up.