Share This Page

State-related universities defend right-to-know status

| Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, 9:06 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Lawyers for Penn State and Pennsylvania's three other “state-related” universities said on Monday they should not be fully covered by the state Right-to-Know Law, as lawmakers revisited a previously settled question reignited by the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case.

The attorneys said during a four-hour Capitol hearing on proposed changes to the state's main open-records law that it should not apply to them as it does to the 14 state-owned schools in the State System of Higher Education.

The Senate State Government Committee appeared divided as it considers a bill to make changes to the version of the law passed in 2008.

Chairman Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, said Sandusky's 2011 arrest and subsequent conviction has been a “game changer” in several areas of state law.

Lawyers for Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln and Temple said it was not a simple matter of cost. They said their institutions are not state agencies and do not have the government's sovereign immunity protection from lawsuits.

They receive hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding annually. The 2008 revisions to the Right-to-Know Law largely excluded the schools but imposed a requirement that they disclose certain financial information annually, including some of their largest salaries.

Pitt attorney Paul Supowitz said the schools support a proposal to apply the Right-to-Know Law to their own police departments and are open to discussing other changes.

Stephen Dunham, Penn State's top lawyer, said putting it fully under the Right-to-Know Law would damage the school's decision-making systems, which reflect its status as more private and autonomous than similar large public universities in other states.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.