Attorneys for former Penn State University president Graham Spanier this week told a Centre County judge he is entitled to receive copies of emails sent and received by him during the course of his employment, despite a directive by the state attorney general's office that the messages should not be turned over.
Mr. Spanier filed a lawsuit against the university in May, saying he needed the emails to refresh his memory in preparation for an interview regarding the school's internal investigation into the scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted last month on 45 counts of child sex abuse.
Shortly after Mr. Sandusky was charged in November, Mr. Spanier resigned from his position as university president and is currently on sabbatical from his faculty position. Two other Penn State administrators, athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president of business and finance, Gary Schultz, are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report alleged child abuse by Mr. Sandusky on campus.
Mr. Spanier testified before the same grand jury and claimed he was not aware the allegations against Mr. Sandusky included sexual abuse, but instead, were characterized as "horsing around."
He filed his lawsuit after spending several weeks in correspondence with university attorneys to obtain copies of his emails.
Attorneys for Penn State claim Mr. Spanier's lawsuit is an attempt to circumvent rules governing the Right to Know law in Pennsylvania, and he has to extinguish those remedies with the attorney general's office before filing a complaint against the university. The attorney general's office has said the emails should not be turned over and that doing so could harm an ongoing criminal investigation.
"Spanier cannot credibly contend that the university has a legal obligation to refuse to cooperate with the attorney general's request," the university's lawyers wrote.
But in their filing Monday, attorneys for Mr. Spanier claim Penn State officials are under no requirement to follow the prosecutor's instruction.
"As the university is under no formal obligation to obey the directive of the office of attorney general, Dr. Spanier's request for the subject emails is not merely an attack on the directive, but is at its core, a complaint against the university for choosing not to turn over the emails to Dr. Spanier," they wrote.
In recent weeks, some of the emails purportedly exchanged among top university administrators have been leaked to the media.
NBC first reported on the email traffic last month.
CNN reported this week on an excerpted email from Mr. Curley that indicated he changed his mind about reporting a 2001 allegation to child welfare authorities after speaking with the late football coach Joe Paterno, which suggested he took a more active role in the decision than what he described to the grand jury.
Those emails have apparently led to another round of interviews with people at Penn State.
Two people at the university familiar with the investigations told The Associated Press that athletic department staffers were among those interviewed by Department of Education officials since the revelations about the email exchanges.
The two people, who were also interviewed for Penn State's internal investigation, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com or 412-263-2620. First Published July 7, 2012 4:00 AM