HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Commonwealth Court ruled Wednesday that Governor Wolf was wrong in firing the executive director of the state Office of Open Records.
In January Gov. Wolf removed director Erik Arneson, who had been enlisted by outgoing Governor Tom Corbett, to lead the open records office. Wolf cited state precedent when he ousted the longtime Republican Senate aide.
Arneson's lawyers argued that the Open Records Office is quasi-judicial, and therefore Wolf acted beyond his authority when he terminated Arneson. They also cited the six-year term that outlasts a single gubernatorial term and the need to maintain a separation of powers within government.
The Commonwealth Court judges ruled in a 4-to-3 decision Wednesday that Wolf overstepped his authority. The court ordered that Arneson be restored to his position with benefits and back pay.
In a statement, Arneson said: "Today’s decision by the Commonwealth Court is a tremendous step forward for the Office of Open Records. My position has been consistent: The Office of Open Records must be truly independent in order for it to function as it was intended. I very much look forward to establishing a positive working relationship with Governor Wolf and his administration. I’m excited to return to work at the Office of Open Records. It’s an amazing team, and we are all passionate about the OOR’s mission: enforcing the Right-to-Know Law and serving as a resource for citizens, public officials, and members of the media in obtaining public records of their government. I thank my family, friends, co-workers, members of the public, and the media for the overwhelming support I received during this process."