(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)
JB: Boss, ya know how new open-records attitudes and new reform-minded electeds were gonna change the way Harrisburg does business?
BE: Yeah, I vaguely remember something about that, why?
JB: Well, in one interesting case involving turnpike employees' use of E-ZPass, that doesn't seem to be happening.
BE: Wait. Turnpike? That bastion of patronage? That bin of political favors? The agency run by the father of Corbett's campaign manager at $196,700 per annum, the guy reform-promising Corbett appointed back in March?
JB: Yep, that's the one. Anywho, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reports that a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel has reversed a state Office of Open Records decision and denied the newspaper's right-to-know request for access to turnpike employees' E-ZPass records.
BE: Why'd the newspaper want the records?
JB: Because the pike's former boss last year said about 2,000 turnpike employees use E-ZPass for free, whether for business or personal reasons. The newspaper wanted to find out how much that costs.
BE: A reasonable request.
JB: You'd think, especially in this era of open government.
JB: In an opinion written by relatively new Judge Patricia McCullough, the court ruled the workers are protected under part of the state transportation law that ensures privacy of electronic toll users.
BE: Yeah, but....
JB: Right, the newspaper argued, hey, these folks are getting employee benefits that should be open to public view.
BE: A sound argument.
JB: And the newspaper's editor, David Newhouse, said, "If the [turnpike] commission has nothing to hide, if they're willing to be held accountable, why not open up the records?"
BE: Makes sense.
JB: Sure it does. But no word yet on an appeal, or whether the always-reform-minded legislature will change the law, or whether the "I'm-gonna-change-Harrisburg" governor might step in.
BE: I think it's nice how you always seem to have hope for change.
JB: I think it's sad there's always some need to hope for change. Grrrr.