CNN on Monday, after prior public record requests, sent a letter to Penn State President Rodney Erickson appealing to his promise of transparency and the university’s ethical duty to release the records relating to the Jerry Sandusky investigation due to the overwhelming public interest in the case and public policy questions raised by the university’s and investigators’ handling of the allegations.
Below is the letter to Erickson:
I am writing on behalf of Cable News Network, Inc. (“CNN”) as the head of newsgathering operations for the entire northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania.
Soon after you were named interim president in the aftermath of the announcement of the sexual abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky and related perjury charges against other Penn State officials, you made this promise to the Penn State community: “Penn State is committed to transparency to the fullest extent possible given the ongoing investigations.” We implore you to fulfill your promise.
As you know, CNN and several other news organizations have filed Right to Know Requests with the university and University Police relating to the 1998 investigation of Sandusky. Those requests have been perfunctorily denied by the University’s General Counsel’s Office which has relied on the argument that the university is not a “commonwealth agency” as defined by the law and thus immune from public disclosure except as it relates to information contained on IRS 990 reports. It is our understanding that this exemption is unusual when compared with other, similar state universities. Given the gravity of the allegations and the public interest in this important matter, we would ask that you make the records relating to the Sandusky case available to the public to honor your commitment to transparency, instead of avoiding this obligation by invoking this atypical exception to open records laws.
The public interest in this case is overwhelming. The allegations have raised serious questions about how state employees and state officials – including those who are supposed to enforce the law – have responded to allegations of sexual abuse of minors and larger public policy questions about the adequacy of child protection laws, which should be debated in the public and in legislative chambers across the United States and around the world. The public needs complete and accurate information.
We believe Penn State, as a nationally known university and the flagship of Pennsylvania's university system, has an ethical duty to the public to release these records, rather than rely on this peculiar exception provided by the state legislature.
We await your response.