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Penn State Alumnus Wins Latest Battle in Open Records Dispute

By Steve Bauer

Penn State alumnus Ryan Bagwell has scored another victory in his quest to uncover information related to the Jerry Sandusky investigation.

The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) has ruled that Bagwell should be given access to 664 pages of communications sent to and from former Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis. Tomalis was an ex-officio member of the Penn State Board of Trustees when the Sandusky scandal erupted.

Bagwell runs the Sunshine Fund, an organization that seeks to promote transparency at Penn State. According to the organization’s website, Bagwell has been successful in obtaining some records in the past.

Bagwell had been seeking additional records from the Department of Education. He requested copies of communications pertaining to Penn State between Tomalis and various members of the Penn State Board of Trustees that were sent in July 2012, August 2012 or between October 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012.

There was a second request for communications, pertaining to Penn State, between Tomalis, Gov. Corbett and others that were sent July 2012, August 2012 or between November 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012.

Tomalis claimed the requested records were exempt from release, in part, because “communications and consultations were internal and between agencies and offices under the Governor’s jurisdiction.” He also cited attorney-client privilege and the fact that some communications contained personal information.

However, the OOR ruled in Bagwell’s favor, although it ordered that some personal information be withheld. The OOR also rejected a demand that Bagwell prepay $338 in order to see those records.

Bagwell tells he’s “thrilled” with the ruling. “I’m not seeking these records with the expectation that they’ll reveal particular information or lead to a particular result,” he says. “Instead, I simply hope to learn more about Penn State’s handling of the Sandusky scandal.”

He adds, “The Sunshine Fund has completed its task of seeking information about Penn State’s activities between the start of the scandal and the announcement of the NCAA’s sanctions. It will be one of the last, if not the last, information requests that seeks records about the scandal.”

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All parties involved were given 30 days to appeal to the Commonwealth Court. Bagwell says he’s planing to release a final report once all the litigation has been resolved, perhaps by early next year.

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