2nd lawsuit filed against Gov. Wolf seeking reinstatement of open records director
A second lawsuit has been filed against Gov. Tom Wolf demanding he reinstate Erik Arneson as executive director of the Office of Open Records.
Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, a nonprofit against compulsory unionism that has an appeal pending in the office, filed the suit in Commonwealth Court on Friday seeking an injunction to prevent the office from ruling until Arneson is back at the head of the agency.
Simon Campbell, the group’s president, said the office’s statutory six-year term ensures independence and cannot be undone by the whim of a governor.
“The only person who would ever take a job under those circumstances is someone willing to kiss the ring of the governor,” Campbell said.
Arneson was appointed to the job by former Gov. Tom Corbett less than two weeks before Wolf’s inauguration Jan. 20. Wolf bashed the “eleventh-hour appointment” as lacking transparency and terminated Arneson before the end of his first week in office.
The lawsuit is the second filed this week in connection with Arneson’s firing. On Monday, Senate Republicans and Arneson sued Wolf, saying the governor does not have the authority to remove him from the position and seeking an injunction. Arneson worked for Senate Republicans for almost two decades, most recently for state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester County, who lost his majority leader spot in December.
On Monday, Wolf said, “I will continue to fight for the integrity of the Office of Open Records. … Today’s lawsuit does nothing to alter my conviction.”
A hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday. The Commonwealth Court announced the hearing date Friday to give the Attorney General’s Office, which is defending the Wolf administration, an extra day to prepare.
Arneson, when reached Friday afternoon, had not seen the lawsuit. He has continued to show up for work in the Capitol even though the administration halted his pay.
Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for the Senate GOP, said the new lawsuit “just adds to the groundswell of support for our efforts to protect the integrity of this office.”
The Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors on Friday urged Wolf to reinstate Arneson, saying his removal sets a dangerous precedent. It follows similar statements from the Pennsylvania Society of News Editors and the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition.
“By terminating Arneson for no apparent cause, Wolf has sent the message that the position can and will be tied to political affiliation,” said a statement from the association’s president Nick Falsone, managing editor of The Express-Times. “That’s a terrible message to be sending to the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or [email protected].