Open Records battle heats up, headed to PA Supreme Court

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On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Court ruled that Governor Tom Wolf (D) overstepped his bounds in one of his first decisions as governor.

The Court reinstated Erik Arneson as the director of Open Records, but it was short-lived. Arneson has been fighting to get the job back for five months.

He only served as director in January for a week and a half, appointed last-minute by former Governor Tom Corbett (R). Wolf fired him, calling the appointment "political gamesmanship."

But Arneson argues the office must be independent, with the director serving his or her appointed six-year term.

"I've said all along that this office cannot function as it was intended to if the director has to live in constant worry if the governor- any governor- has the right to dismiss him or her because of a decision that the governor doesn't like," Arneson says.

The court sided with him, in a close 4-3 decision. The ruling even says he should receive back pay from after he was fired.

The Governor's officer says Wolf disagrees with the decision and was "within his rights" for fire Arneson.

Arneson was back in the Office of Open Records for the day, but the governor's office filed an appeal. The appeal suspends the decision, forcing Arneson back out.

"It's been a hell of a year and I'm just rolling with the flow," says Arneson. "I think it's a very important case if it goes to the state Supreme Court I look forward to what their decision is and look forward hopefully to getting back to the office yet again."

The case will go to the State Supreme Court. Senate Republicans are calling on Wolf to stop the appeal and save taxpayer money.

"I know that Erik Arneson will faithfully serve the cause of government transparency in Pennsylvania," says Senator Dominic Pileggi (R) in a statement. " I call on Governor Wolf to conserve scarce taxpayer resources by abandoning any further appeals or delays so the Office of Open Records may continue its important work."

Governor Wolf's press secretary Jeff Sheridan responded in a statement.

"The hypocrisy of the Senate Republicans calling on the Wolf Administration to save taxpayers money by not moving forward with our appeal is stunning," says Sheridan. "Taxpayers deserve to know how much Legislative Republicans have spent on outside legal costs associated with actions taken against the Wolf Administration."

He points out that the Senate Republican Caucus filed "unnecessary" action alongside Arneson in the lawsuit, using taxpayer money.