Sandusky scandal: Alum fights for PSU records; $15,000 donated to help release sealed documents

mdawson@centredaily.comFebruary 14, 2014 

A Penn State graduate’s campaign to raise money to pursue open-records lawsuits for information about the Jerry Sandusky scandal has resulted in donations of $15,000 from 161 people, he said this week.

Middleton, Wis., resident Ryan Bagwell is fighting for access to records such as email exchanges between the state secretary of education and Freeh investigators and a Sandusky case prosecutor and the investigators. The agencies at the other end of the open-records cases are the Department of Education, the state Attorney General’s Office and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

“Alumni still want to know how Penn State’s leaders handled the Sandusky scandal,” said Bagwell, who is also running for a seat on the university’s board of trustees. “Even as the university continues to move forward, questions remain.”

Bagwell has raised $15,215 of his goal of $50,000. He’s received 191 donations, and the average contribution is almost $80.

Bagwell said one person sent in a $10 donation and included a note why he thought former head football coach Joe Paterno could have done more.

“But since Penn State spends tax dollars, he wants the university to be transparent,” Bagwell said. “The desire for transparency transcends the Sandusky scandal.”

Bagwell has two outstanding cases against the Department of Education for records of email exchanges that former Secretary Ron Tomalis had with Freeh investigators and Penn State trustees. Tomalis was a Penn State trustee at the time because of his Cabinet position and was also on the task force that hired Freeh.

In one of the cases, Bagwell scored a win last year when a state court reversed the Office of Open Records’ denial for Tomalis’s emails.

Late last month, the Office of Open Records began reviewing the records, which consist of about 300 pages that Penn State lawyers have said should be protected by attorney-client privilege.

In the other case, Bagwell is seeking access to more than 500 emails between Tomalis and Freeh investigators. In this case, Penn State filed paperwork to intervene earlier this week.

Bagwell is also trying to get access to email exchanges that Sandusky prosecutor Frank Fina had with Freeh investigators while he worked for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams in late 2012 and the first half of 2013. Also being sought were emails between Fina and Barry Feudale, the judge who presided over the grand jury, and Randy Feathers, who worked in the State College bureau of the Attorney General’s Office.

In court papers, Williams’ office said it did not have the records, and Bagwell sued.

Williams tweeted in January that he was also seeking nominations for a spot on the trustees’ ballot.

Bagwell’s is trying to get emails that Fina and other Attorney General’s Office staff had with Freeh investigators. The office denied the request, and Bagwell has appealed it.

One donor was Tom Schneider, a 1971 Penn State graduate in northern Lycoming County, who said he’s supporting Bagwell’s efforts to see if the emails and documentation will add to the public record of the Sandusky scandal.

“Through this whole thing, there’s been a great lack of transparency and explanations by the board of trustees, in terms of the actions they’ve taken,” Schneider said. “I’m a supporter and willing to offer financial help to those who continue to ask questions and dig for answers to a lot of things that haven’t been answered.”

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