By MARK SCOLFORO
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) —The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office on Thursday asked for more time before a hearing about who should serve as director of the state Office of Open Records.
The filing by lawyers who represent Gov. Tom Wolf, the open records agency and a state department wrote that they want to interview Erik Arneson, who was fired from the position last week by the newly sworn-in governor.
They want Commonwealth Court to delay a hearing on the matter now scheduled for next week.
Arneson’s attorney, Joel Frank, said has not determined whether he will oppose any effort to depose Arneson, and said he is against a postponement of the hearing.
“The more quickly this is addressed, the more quickly, hopefully, Erik will get back to the work that he’s supposed to be doing,” Frank said.
Wolf, a Democrat, removed Arneson from the job a week after outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, appointed him. Arneson and the Senate Republican caucus where he worked until Corbett’s appointment want a judge to return him to the position.
Their response, also filed Thursday, said there is “current, ongoing and irreparable harm” that will continue during any additional delay.
“They are claiming they do not have enough time to prepare,” lawyers for Arneson and the Senate Republicans told the court. “Quite frankly, that is always the case, and it was the circumstances faced equally by (the) petitioners when they only learned of the unlawful acts on Thursday and had to rush to the court for relief by Monday. Both sides are on equal footing here.”
The lawsuit filed Monday against Wolf, the Office of Open Records and the Department of Community and Economic Development requests an order restoring Arneson to the job, back pay and benefits, a declaration that the governor can only remove the director for cause and other relief.
Wolf fired Arneson two days after his Jan. 20 inauguration and sought the return of nominations that Corbett made during his waning days as governor. He said Arneson’s appointment lacked transparency and argued the Office of Open Records director serves at the will of the governor.
Wolf said he plans a national search for a new director, and in the meantime deputy director Nathan Byerly is in charge. But Arneson has continued to show up for work in the Capitol complex.
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