Penn State grad starts fund to pay for public records fight

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An update of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law being discussed in Harrisburg may one day shed more light Penn State University’s operations — provided the state’s flagship public university and other state-related schools are brought fully under the law.

But in the meantime, a Penn State alumnus today formally announced a legal fund drive with the stated goal of helping bankroll his efforts to make his alma mater more transparent.

What Ryan Bagwell, class of 2002, has dubbed the “Penn State Sunshine Fund” would “distribute money for legal and lobbying activities with the goal of eliminating the secrecy that persists at Old Main,” he said in a statement announcing the drive.

Currently, Penn State as well as the University of Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln universities are exempt from most requirements of the law. But Mr. Bagwell has been using the records law in its current form to gain insight into how Penn State trustees and public officials handled child sexual abuse allegations against jailed former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky that thrust the university into a scandal in November 2011.

In July, a Commonwealth Court ruling sided with Mr. Bagwell’s pursuit of access to records of certain Penn State trustees. The ruling sent Mr. Bagwell’s request back to the state Office of Open Records, which is interpreting what documents must be turned over to the public.

Penn State had no immediate reaction to Mr. Bagwell’s fund drive.

He said he has spent $15,000 to date in legal and other fees and hopes to raise $50,000 toward expected future actions.

He said individuals can learn more about the drive and about making donations by going to http://www.pennstatesunshinefund.org.


Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.

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