Centre County commissioners OK with ruling from Open Records Office

Centre County Commissioners Michael Pipe, Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos.
Centre County Commissioners Michael Pipe, Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos. CDT photo

Centre County commissioners were satisfied with the outcome of a recent appeal to the state Office of Open Records, commenting at their Tuesday meeting that the ruling would help move the county forward.

The state Office of Open Records granted Centre County Chief Public Defender Dave Crowley’s appeal Monday, ordering Centre County government to turn over cellphone billing records involving Judge Bradley P. Lunsford and the District Attorney’s Office within 30 days in a ruling that contradicts a judge’s previous orders.

The ruling comes up against court orders handed down by Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz that prohibits the county from responding to requests involving the judiciary.

The ruling made complete sense, Chairman Steve Dershem said, adding that because the records are held, negotiated and paid for by the county, the community should have access to them.

“Frankly, I believe it was the right ruling,” he said. “I believe it will be the ruling that will move us forward through the court processes as we know them.”

Commissioner Michael Pipe echoed Dershem’s comments, saying the decision was clear-cut and he was excited to see the process moving forward.

“This is one of the shorter decisions we’ve received from them,” he said. “The conclusion was very straightforward.”

At this point, the 30-day appeal process begins, county Administrator Tim Boyde said. After conferring with the county’s legal representative, the county needs to take time to evaluate its current situation.

The original court order is still in place, he said, putting the county in the position of being told by the courts not to release anything while the Office of Open Records is saying the county has to comply.

“There’s no need to rush out and release that information,” Boyde said. “We need to make sure we have a full understanding of what the implications are and what the ramifications are.”