Wolf agrees to reinstate open records official during appeal

Written by The Associated Press | Jun 15, 2015 11:44 AM


Photo by AP Photo/Matt Rourke

(Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf won't oppose a court order to reinstate the fired director of Pennsylvania's open records office while the Democrat appeals a ruling saying he overstepped his powers when he fired the official.

Wolf's move Monday comes five days after the Commonwealth Court ruling that ordered Erik Arneson returned to the job. The Wolf administration immediately appealed, but its reversing its initial decision to block Arneson's rehiring while it appeals.

Arneson is a longtime Republican Senate aide. Wolf fired him just days after he became the executive director of the Office of Open Records, saying the 11th-hour appointment by his predecessor, Tom Corbett, lacked transparency.

The Commonwealth Court agreed with Arneson's lawyers that the office is independent of the governor. Wolf maintains that court precedent allows the firing.

Wolf's full statement:

"My administration will reinstate Erik Arneson as executive director of the Office of Open Records pending the Supreme Court's review of our appeal to restore the executive authority of the governor. Openness and transparency is a top priority for me as governor, and in taking this step, I hope and expect that Mr. Arneson will join us in achieving these goals.

"We will pursue our appeal with the state's Supreme Court because we believe that in its ruling, a 4-3 majority of the Commonwealth Court improperly eroded the governor's executive authority under the Pennsylvania constitution. This ruling is inconsistent with previous case law and President Judge Pellegrini, in his dissent, described the majority opinion as ripping holes in the constitutional powers of the governor, leaving governors with 'swiss cheese executive authority.'

"Therefore, my administration will move forward to ask the Supreme Court to restore the proper balance of constitutional powers."

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