Last updated: February 19. 2013 9:42PM - 187 Views

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Gov. Corbett is trying to circumvent Pennsylvania's open-records law by declaring his daily schedule off limits to public scrutiny. Is he trying to hide something?

The governor's negative response to a reasonable request by the media to know what's on his daily agenda has morphed into a crucial challenge that could undermine the state's fledgling Office of Open Records and have a chilling effect on government openness.

Corbett and his lawyers have put up roadblocks ever since Associated Press reporter Mark Scolforo filed a simple request in February 2011 to look at the the schedule and emails.

The lawyers claimed exemptions under the state's 2008 Right-to-Know Law. So much for Corbett's declaration in his inaugural address that we must restore transparency in government.

Eventually, the governor's office released some redacted material, but most of it was useless. The administration largely argued that some of the information could disclose deliberations about policy or personnel, or cause a security risk.

With good reason, the Associated Press appealed, and the state Office of Open Records sided with the wire service.

The case before Terry Mutchler, executive director of the Open Records Office, should have ended after Commonwealth Court ordered her office to review the governor's schedule in camera, or privately, to determine if it should be exempt from public access.

Instead, the court invalidated Mutchler's order and granted the governor's request to rehear the case in February.

The court has put in jeopardy the authority of the open-records office to act as an independent watchdog to protect the public's right to know and prevent government agencies from arbitrarily deciding what information to release.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

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