Senate GOP Sues Over Wolf’s Firing of Open Records Czar

Republicans says he violated separation of powers. Wolf says he's protecting the people's right to know.

Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania Senate Republicans are suing Gov. Wolf over his ousting of the executive director of the Office of Open Records.

The suit, filed in Commonwealth Court, says Wolf’s actions “violate separation of powers principles in the Pennsylvania Constitution and also violate the Right-to-Know Law.”

Wolf fired Erik Arneson, who was appointed to lead the Office of Open Records by Gov. Corbett during his final days in office, last week, arguing that he was an “at-will” employee who could be terminated for any reason. Wolf released the following statement about the Senate GOP’s lawsuit:

“Elected leaders should be open, transparent, and accountable to the people of Pennsylvania. The actions taken by my predecessor in the eleventh hour, when he named Erik Arneson, a longtime Republican staffer, as executive director of the Office of Open Records, were anything but open and transparent.

“With one of his first acts, Mr. Arneson demoted a qualified chief counsel in favor of a Corbett staffer.

“By removing Mr. Arneson, I am standing up against an effort to destroy the integrity of the Office of Open Records and turn it into a political operation. These attempts to change the office, which exists to protect the public’s right to know, are the exact reasons people distrust their state government. When given the choice between protecting the public and playing politics, I will stand with the people of Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition is urging Wolf to reconsider his decision to fire Arneson.

“If the [office’s] executive director can be removed for any reason at any time, what will stop the next governor (or even this one later in his term) from removing him or her on the basis of a ruling of that office?” asks the coalition in a statement. “An interpretation like this will turn the Office of Open Records from an independent arbiter of the Right-to-Know law into an adjunct agency of the governor’s office, one with no real authority.”

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Senate GOP’s lawsuit over Erik Arneson’s firing