An attorney from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is warning senior leaders at Penn State University that the school’s governing body is violating Pennsylvania’s open meetings law by routinely holding meetings in private.
In an Oct. 26 letter on behalf of Spotlight PA, Reporters Committee Local Legal Initiative Attorney Paula Knudsen Burke highlighted reporting by the nonprofit news outlet that revealed that the university’s Board of Trustees has taken official action and conducted deliberations outside of public meetings.
“PSU’s lack of transparency harms the public it is designed to serve and educate,” Burke argues in the letter addressed to Penn State’s president, general counsel, and the chair of its Board of Trustees. “The PSU Board of Trustees’ misuse of conferences and executive sessions violates the letter and intent of the Sunshine Act and, consequently, erodes the public’s faith.”
The letter reminds school officials of Penn State’s obligations under the Sunshine Act and urges them to address Spotlight PA’s concerns before the next Board of Trustees meeting, which is scheduled for early November.
Last year, Burke represented Spotlight PA and two other Pennsylvania news organizations in a successful effort to unseal court filings related to search warrants in a case involving Penn State. The records revealed allegations of sexual extortion targeting members of the school’s football team.
Read the full letter below. And to learn more about why Spotlight PA is advocating for greater transparency at Penn State, check out this column by Christopher Baxter, the news outlet’s CEO and president.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.