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Politics & Government

Court Panel Hears Arguments In Dispute Over State's Open Records Office

Mary Wilson

The dispute over Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to fire the state’s Open Records director is in the hands of a state court.

A Commonwealth Court panel will consider whether Wolf had the power to dismiss Erik Arneson, appointed by former Gov. Tom Corbett.

Wolf’s lawyers say the Open Records director is an at-will employee of the governor’s administration.

But Matt Haverstick, a lawyer for Arneson, says the law creating the office clearly intends to insulate it from the whims of the governor.

"What you want is an office that’s sort of the first line of defense, that’s calling balls and strikes and not one that – not saying any particular governor would do this – but not one that is subject to the influence, overt or otherwise, of the governor," he said.

Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini suggested that under the same logic, the General Assembly could “gut” the power of the governor.

A decision could be made within a month.

Wolf’s administration has suspended the search for an Open Records director until the lawsuit is resolved.