Corbett's departing act of appointing Eric Arenson to head the Office of Open Records effectively politicized an office that, under the direction of Terry Mutchler, was non-partisan and professional. Mutchler’s term expired months ago, but Corbett delayed naming a replacement until his last day in office.
Arenson is a Republican operative. He moved immediately to staff the office with Corbett loyalists intending to bring Delene Lantz-Johnson over from Corbett's governor's office. Among her duties there was reviewing open records requests, 70 percent of which she denied. Most of those denials were reversed by Terry Mutchler's office. I am told that Arenson continues to attend a conservative Republican strategy meeting hosted each week by Republican lobbyist Charlie Gerow, the Harrisburg equivalent of Grover Norquist's infamous Wednesday meetings in DC.
Governor Wolf correctly assessed that the political independence and professionalism of the Office of Open Records is at stake and Corbett’s 11th hour appointment of Arenson to head the office is the opposite of government transparency. And Wolf did not name his own replacement. Instead, he will conduct a nationwide search for a highly qualified professional to head the office.
Governor Wolf's action is completely consistent with his stated commitment to openness, transparency and professionalism in state government. What a refreshing change.