Journalism educator Al Tompkins, a faculty member at the journalism training organization Poynter, followed yesterday’s Louis Freeh report accusing Penn State leaders of covering up what they knew about Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse allegations by putting the focus on the university’s exemption from the right-to-know law.
In a piece headlined, “How Open Records law would have stopped sex abuse sooner at Penn State,” Tompkins writes that Freeh’s report missed a chance to stress that PSU should be subject to the RTK law.
He quotes Terry Mutchler, head of Pennsylvania’s open records office, as saying that “the exempted school police departments are the only police departments in the state that do not have to comply with state open records requests. Even the FBI must comply with open records filings, but not Penn State’s cops. That would become a key way the 1998 report about sexual misconduct by Jerry Sandusky stayed hidden for more than a decade.
“Had the Penn State police department been forced to disclose records as other departments must, you might have found a police report, a blotter item. You might have found something” that would have uncovered the Sandusky matter earlier, Mutchler says.”
In November, we wrote here about whether the charges against Sandusky would prompt legislators to bring Penn State under the RTK law, noting that a local legislator planned to propose a bill to make that happen, and quoting a YDR editorial saying that should happen.
Gov. Tom Corbett also weighed in, saying Penn State should comply with the open records law or risk getting state aid.