Letter to Governor Wolf

Earlier today, I sent the following letter to Gov. Tom Wolf.

***

January 11, 2021

The Honorable Tom Wolf
Governor
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
508 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Re: Office of Open Records

Dear Governor Wolf,

Thank you for the tremendous support you and your administration have provided to the Office of Open Records during my time as executive director.

The OOR is a unique agency, sui generis as they say, and it serves an important purpose: Ensuring that the work of government agencies is available to the public so that the public can hold its government accountable. Transparency really does breed trust.

Early in my tenure, I suspect a few people wondered what the relationship would be like between the OOR and your administration. I wondered myself. But I’m pleased to say that the relationship was excellent. In fact, I couldn’t have asked for a better working relationship.

Most significantly, you and your administration have allowed the OOR to operate with true independence, and all Pennsylvanians should be thankful for that. In terms of the Right-to-Know Law, nothing is more important than the OOR’s independence. That independence ensures that the OOR can issue fair and impartial decisions, and – just as importantly – it is critical to giving the public confidence that the OOR’s decisions are fair and impartial. Other states have seen the alternative, and it’s not good.

On a more practical level, the team at the Department of Community and Economic Development, led by Secretary Dennis Davin, has provided tremendous support to the OOR. The same is true of the Department of General Services, the Office of Administration, PennDOT, the Office of the Budget, and every agency we worked with during the past six years. Whatever the OOR needed, big or small, your administration came through. In particular, I would like to thank your Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Hagarty.

I would be remiss if I did not also highlight the amazing support provided by the General Assembly over the past six years. The Senate and the House, Republicans and Democrats, leadership and rank-and-file, have all been there. Every year in the budget process, your proposals treated the OOR fairly. In the years when additional funding was needed, the legislature stepped up and provided it. The Pennsylvania General Assembly deserves a lot of credit for its support of the OOR and the Right-to-Know Law.

The next person to hold this position is, in my view, the luckiest person in Pennsylvania. Their top priority (beyond a continued focus on the OOR’s independence) should be keeping the entire OOR staff intact. I can’t say enough good things about the team at the OOR. They make the job of the executive director easy.

As much as I would have loved to be reappointed to the OOR, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been there for the time that I was. And I very much look forward to working with Treasurer-elect Stacy Garrity to advance issues of transparency in new ways.

Again, thank you for the respect and professionalism you and your entire staff have afforded the OOR over the past six years.

Sincerely,
Erik Arneson

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