A former Penn State trustee candidate who’s been campaigning for transparency from the university and pushing for board members’ and state officials’ emails has scored a victory.
The state Office of Open Records issued a decision Wednesday that the Department of Education should hand over hundreds of emails requested by Ryan Bagwell, the former board candidate who requested the documents through a Right to Know request.
Bagwell, who runs the Penn State Sunshine Fund, wants emails sent to Ron Tomalis, former state secretary of education, from Gov. Tom Corbett, his top aides and key Penn State officials.
The department found 644 pages, but wanted Bagwell to pay $338 in fees before it would even respond to his request and said it reserved the right to determine that some of the documents are protected and shouldn’t be handed over.
In its decision, the open records office found the Department of Education didn’t follow proper procedures in responding to the request. The state has 30 days to appeal the decision to Commonwealth Court.
Bagwell has been using open records requests in his ongoing bid to reveal information about how the university handled the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
Earlier emails he obtained showed that Tomalis and trustee Ken Frazier, who were leading the task force to oversee the internal Sandusky investigation, recommended Louis Freeh over former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff.
Freeh’s controversial report, which concluded that top university officials covered up allegations against Sandusky, has been under siege by some — including the estate of late football coach Joe Paterno. They are suing to overturn sanctions imposed by the NCAA that were based on the report’s findings.
Bagwell is in a fight with the Department of Education over another batch of emails. The department is challenging a ruling from the open records office that it hand over three emails, arguing that they are exempt because they are protected by attorney-client privilege.
The emails are between Tomalis, a Penn State trustee when the Sandusky scandal broke in 2011, and two top state attorneys and were sent Nov. 8, days after Sandusky was indicted.
Bagwell said at the time that the emails are discussions of “suggestions of investigative firms that Corbett’s office wanted the university to hire.”