PSU gift failed 'gut check' for top open records officer
By Adam Smeltz
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Not long after Terry Mutchler became Pennsylvania's open records officer, a Penn State University representative suggested a gift that “didn't pass the gut check,” she says.
At an August 2008 meeting, someone from the school's alumni association offered her four free, 50-yard line tickets to a homecoming football game at Beaver Stadium, Mutchler said.
She does not recall the person's name.
“Under the most generous interpretation, it was a welcoming gesture. Under a more cynical interpretation, it was a beholden situation,” Mutchler said. “I think if I would have accepted those tickets, I would have felt beholden to Penn State. And that's something I was not willing to do.”
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said her university colleagues could not recall an offer to Mutchler.
Penn State obeys disclosure laws by reporting the football tickets it gives to lawmakers, Powers said. She said the school invites state officials with whom “we have ongoing professional relationships.”
The state Office of Open Records, a quasi-judicial agency for which Mutchler is executive director, adjudicates appeals when a public office refuses to share information sought under the Right-to-Know Law. The law largely exempts Penn State.
Her office has received — and, under the law, rejected — hundreds of requests seeking records from Penn State about the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Jeff Brauer, a political science professor at Keystone College in Lackawanna County, praised Mutchler for refusing the tickets, saying, “It absolutely does not pass the smell test.”
Mutchler said the university did not ask for favorable treatment, and she did not report the matter to the state Ethics Commission, noting Penn State did nothing illegal. Lawmakers are debating whether to bring Penn State and other state-related universities under stricter open-records rules.
Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Lawmaker: Responders should carry drug that counteracts opiates
- Bill would let local police use radar guns
- PennDOT to pay team of companies for bridge repairs under single contract
- Allegheny College journalism conference to share story next door
- Doylestown church embraces Zimbabwe couple
- Retired Pa. Game Commission chief to get $220K severance payment
- W.Va. man dies in Greene County ATV crash
- $1.5M grant will pay for Presque Isle sand
- Family of curlers sets sights on ’18 Olympics
- Philly, state leaders hopeful for pope visit in 2015
- Penn State on pace for record number of applications