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PSU grad fights to learn Corbett's role

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Monday, April 8, 2013, 8:59 p.m.
 

Gov. Tom Corbett's administration is fighting to keep its role on Penn State's board secret even as it sues the NCAA over sanctions against the university, a candidate for election to Penn State's board of trustees charged on Monday.

Ryan Bagwell, a 2002 Penn State graduate, is headed to Commonwealth Court on June 17 to seek correspondence that state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis received from Penn State trustees and employees between May 1 and July 31, 2012. He is appealing rulings from the Department of Education and the Office of Open Records that said the communications are not subject to disclosure.

“If Governor Corbett was serious about making Penn State more transparent, he'd tell his lawyer to stop helping it conceal university records,” Bagwell said.

Bagwell said Tomalis' position as an ex-officio trustee by virtue of his office means he is there in an official state capacity to conduct oversight of collegiate education and his communications should be public records.

Lawyers for Tomalis said that doesn't make his correspondence public record. The state Office of Open Records upheld that position, saying Penn State is specifically excluded from most of the Right to Know law.

The Department of Education wants the court to rule against Bagwell under specific provisions of the Right to Know law rather than any blanket exemption for Penn State. A spokesman for Corbett said there's nothing contradictory about it.

“Governor Corbett has been very clear that he believes Penn State should be subject to the Right to Know Law,” said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, press secretary, Governor's Office of General Counsel.

“Consistent with the governor's position, the department has requested that the Commonwealth Court decide this appeal in its favor based on statutory exemptions under the law, and not on any prior decision that has held that PSU was not subject to the law.”

Corbett, himself a Penn State trustee, is suing the NCAA, claiming its harsh sanctions against Penn State's football program violated anti-trust laws.

Bagwell, who has mounted repeated battles to obtain documents regarding Penn State's actions surrounding the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is among 39 candidates seeking election to three alumni seats on the Penn State board of trustees this month.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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