Furthering transparency at Penn State has been a widely discussed topic at Penn State in the past year, and a new court case is attempting to further expose the administration to the public eye.
Ryan Bagwell, a candidate in the 2013 Board of Trustees elections, believes the Freeh investigative team, because it was composed of ex-law enforcement officials, was biased toward working with prosecutors to ensure a criminal conviction of Jerry Sandusky rather than looking into the actions of the entire administration.
A series of emails released last week by the Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane shows members of Freeh’s team celebrating a victory after the investigation was completed and rejoicing Sandusky’s conviction.
The former defensive coordinator was found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
An email from senior Freeh investigator Gregory Paw to Frank Fina, the Attorney General’s lead prosecutor, reads, “I am very proud of you and the entire prosecution team. Very well done.”
Bagwell feels the trial and conviction of Sandusky, as well as the responsibility assumed of a few other individuals involved — including former football coach Joe Paterno, former athletic director Tim Curley, and retired vice president Gary Schultz — was a way for the university to place blame and “move on.”
However, Bagwell wants the university to be held accountable for what occurred within the administration at Penn State, and thinks the Board of Trustees needs to further its efforts toward transparency.
As his way of trying to ensure this happens, Bagwell filed a suit in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court that would require any correspondence between Freeh investigators and Board of Trustees member Ronald Tomalis, who is also the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, to be open to the public.
“I think this might be the best chance we have to open Penn State up to public for greater scrutiny — and with that comes with greater accountability,” Bagwell said. “I think the suit really could have a tremendous impact, not just in terms of the Sandusky scandal fallout, but for generations to come.”
According to court documents, Bagwell’s June 29 request was denied because the Commonwealth says the Board of Trustees members are not state officials, so their accounts are private and the Right-to-Know law does not apply to them.
Bagwell said his counter-argument is that Tomalis, as an employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, is an employee of the state, and only serves on the Board of Trustees at Penn State because the law requires that he do so.
“These [public officials] are elected officials acting on behalf of the taxpayers while they sit on this board, and the public has a right to know what they’re doing and why they’re making decisions,” Bagwell said. “Taxpayers, especially in Pennsylvania, should be a little outraged by their stance.”
After repeated attempts, Tomalis could not be reached for comment as of press time Monday.