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State Asks Court to Reverse Ordered Release of E-mails About Freeh Hiring

by on July 09, 2014 3:52 PM

The state's Education Department asked the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Tuesday to stop the release of documents that reportedly shed light on how Penn State selected a firm to investigate the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

At issue is a Right to Know request filed in March by Ryan Bagwell, a former reporter and Penn State graduate, with the Education Department. The request asked for copies of all e-mails exchanged between former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, former General Counsel Stephen Aichele, and former state Deputy General Counsel James Schultz.

The agency denied the request saying the three e-mails identified are exempt under the state's Right to Know Law. The state says the emails are protected because they are considered attorney-client communications and attorney work-products, and reflect internal deliberations of an agency.

Bagwell appealed the decision to the state's Open Records Office. In June, the office granted Bagwell's appeal and ordered the agency to release the records.

The state is now appealing that decision in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court arguing the Open Records Office erred in its conclusion and asks the court to reverse the decision.

Bagwell claims the e-mails include suggestions of firms Gov. Tom Corbett's administration wanted the university to hire to investigate the Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

"This appeal is (a) complete waste of the state's time and tax dollars," Bagwell said in a prepared statement. "This ego-fueled mission to conceal embarrassing actions of the state's most powerful attorneys has no merit. Its only purpose is to deprive voters of important information by delaying the release of revealing public records until after Pennsylvania's General Election."

Penn State hired Louis Freeh, former FBI director, to investigate the handling of the Sandusky scandal. After Freeh's report found significant wrongdoing on the part of the university, the NCAA leveled unprecedented sanctions against Penn State's football program. The sanctions included a reduction in football scholarships, a ban on bowl appearances, and the vacating of 111 wins under head football coach Joe Paterno.

The Paterno family, a few current and former trustees, and former football coaches, have questioned the validity of the Freeh report. There are several ongoing lawsuits related to the report and the NCAA sanctions.

Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison. In 2012, a jury found him guilty on 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. Some of the abuse occurred on Penn State's campus. The university has reached monetary settlements with 26 victims.

Authorities also charged former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, and retired Senior Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz with several offenses including perjury, failing to report child endangerment and conspiracy related to an alleged cover up of the Sandusky scandal.

All three men have pleaded not guilty. They are awaiting trial.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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