Gov. Tom Wolf is vowing to appeal a court ruling reversing his dismissal of the director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records, the latest counter-punch in a months-long legal dispute over the independence of the agency and the powers of the governor.
The Commonwealth Court ruling reinstates Erik Arneson to his post as executive director of the agency. It also awards him back-pay.
Arneson, a longtime Senate GOP staffer, was appointed in the last days of former Gov. Tom Corbett’s term. Wolf fired him just days after being sworn in.
Arneson’s lawyers argue that, because of the unique responsibilities of the Office of Open Records, once its director is selected by a governor to fulfill a six-year term, the position is insulated from the influence of the administration.
“As I’ve said all along, there’s no way for the OOR to function if it’s not independent,” said Arneson. The agency was created in 2008 to handle appeals on requests of government records.
In their minority opinion, dissenting judges called Arneson’s reinstatement an “unconstitutional intrusion into the powers of the governor.”
Wolf has said he has nothing against Arneson, but dislikes the fact that he was an eleventh-hour appointee by a lame-duck governor. His spokesman said an appeal would be filed to the state Supreme Court, most likely by the end of the week.