HARRISBURG — In anticipation of Tom Wolf’s anniversary as Governor, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania is taking a look back on some of the major issues that occurred during his first year in office.
Today, we look into the disastrous move by Gov. Wolf to fire the Office of Open Records Director Erik Arneson without authority to do so.
“Less than 48 hours into office, Governor Tom Wolf decided to play politics with the independent Office of Open Records by firing the legally appointed head of the office. After pledging to be open and transparent, Wolf demanded control over the public’s access to his administration. This move let the public know Tom Wolf’s commitment to openness was empty political rhetoric.” — PA GOP Communications Director Megan Sweeney
The Erik Arneson Case
On January 9th, Governor Tom Corbett appointed Erik Arneson to head the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. Citing that he is a “fierce advocate for the public’s right to know” Corbett named him as the second head of the office. (Jan Murphy, “Republican Senate staffer Erik Arneson named new director of Office of Open Records,” Harrisburg Patriot-News , 1/09/2015)
On January 22nd, barely 48 hours into his term of office, Governor Wolf announced that he was firing Arneson as the head of the Office of Open Records. (Jan Murphy, “Gov. Tom Wolf removes recently appointed Corbett-appointee as head of state’s Office of Open Records,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, 1/22/2015)
- Arneson immediately argued that Wolf “does not have the authority to do this” and that it was a “terrible day for transparency in the state.” (Melissa Daniels, “Pennsylvania’s open records office director says Gov. Wolf doesn’t have authority to fire him,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 1/22/2015)
Soon after the firing, Editorial Boards across the state took up Arneson’s defense.
- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the firing “wrong-headed” and that his fight to fired Arneson was a “unwinnable fight.” (“Nasty start: Gov. Wolf picks a fight that was unnecessary,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/25/2015)
- John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News said of the move “the “fresh start” suddenly smells a little stale” and that firing Arneson is “a partisan thing.” (John Baer, “Gov. Wolf’s ‘fresh start’ hits a little stale stall,” Philadelphia Daily News, 1/27/2015)
- The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review called the move “legally dubious.” (“The Arneson firing: Legally dubious,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 1/26/2015)
On June 10th, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that Wolf had overstepped his bounds. (Charles Thompson, “Pa. Commonwealth Court orders ousted Open Records director restored to office; Gov. Tom Wolf vows appeal,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, 6/10/2015)
- The Harrisburg Patriot-News Editorial Board called on Wolf to end the fight at this point. (“Gov. Wolf, give up your fight against Office of Open Records appointment and move on,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, 6/10/2015)
On October 27th, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court put an end to the saga, ruling 3-1 that Wolf had overstepped his bounds. (Jan Murphy, “State Supreme Court ruling is win for Arneson, loss for Wolf,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, 10/27/2015)
- The Wolf Administration looked “more than a little tin-eared” in the Arneson case. “When you run for governor on a pledge to restore integrity and transparency to state government, and one of your first actions is to whack the guy whose job is just that, well, it makes you look more than a little tin-eared.” (John Micek, “The Supreme Court made the right call on Open Records Office case,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, 10/27/2015)