Penn State

Dept. of Education fights Bagwell‘s Right to Know request against Penn State

The state Department of Education is challenging an order that it hand over emails in which top state officials allegedly discuss which legal firm Penn State should hire to investigate its handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, according to a former board of trustees candidate.

Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records ruled last month that the department must provide three emails to Ryan Bagwell, the former board candidate who requested the documents through a Right to Know request.

The Department of Education denied Bagwell access to the emails in April, saying the communications are exempt from open records laws because they are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Bagwell appealed to the Office of Open Records, which ruled that the emails could be turned over. The Department of Education is now appealing that ruling to the Commonwealth Court, according to court documents in the case.

The emails are between former secretary of education Ron 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.

In a statement, Bagwell said the emails are discussions of “suggestions of investigative firms that (Gov. Tom) Corbett’s office wanted the university to hire.”

Earlier emails obtained by Bagwell, and released to the Centre Daily Times, showed that Tomalis and trustee Ken Frazier, who were leading the task force to oversee the investigation, recommended Louis Freeh over former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Freeh’s report, which concluded that top university officials covered up allegations against Sandusky, has drawn criticism from 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.