Former Open Records Chief Mutchler files RTK appeal for Fox Sports Williamsport

By: Todd Bartley, Managing Member, Fox Sports Williamsport

Todd@FoxSportsWilliamsport.com

Fox Sports Williamsport has asked the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records to order release of public records of the Williamsport Area School District involving what District lawyers characterize as an “indecent and inappropriate behavior” involving the school’s baseball team.

Terry Mutchler of the law firm Mutchler-Lyons filed the appeal on behalf of Fox Sports Williamsport to obtain records related to the Millionaires baseball team trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2018. Details are scant on what occurred during that trip, but District Solicitor Fred Holland said that law enforcement was alerted and an investigation was done.

Holland offered this comment for an exclusive report done by Fox Sports Williamsport, August 24, 2018; “Near the end of the school year, an incident involving indecent and inappropriate behavior on the part of a baseball player during the team’s spring trip was brought to the attention of District officials. A prompt investigation was done, and appropriate discipline was imposed. By the time the District was aware of the incident, law enforcement officials had already been contacted.”

But the district has denied access to public records related to the incident. Mutchler said that the District is subject to the Right to Know Law, and that all public records must be released.

“The Supreme Court has said loud and clear that the Right to Know Law is designed to promote access to official government information in order to prohibit secrets, scrutinize the actions of public officials and make public officials accountable for their actions,” Mutchler said. “This case fits the bill. Parents and the community that hosts the Little League World Series need to know what happened, what official action was taken and to determine if appropriate safety measures are in place.”

Mutchler also said that the Office of Open Records has 20 business days to issue a final order which will determine if the records are public. The Office’s decision is binding. If either party disagrees with the decision of the OOR, they will have 30 days after to appeal the OOR’s decision to the Court of Common Pleas.

Mutchler FSW Appeal 8-8-19

Mutchler, is an experienced trial attorney and former award-winning AP journalist appointed by Governor Ed Rendell to create Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records, enforcing the state’s Right to Know Law in 2008. She served seven years building the Office.   After public service, she created the nation’s first Transparency Law Practice serving multi-national corporations, pharmaceuticals, energy and media companies and is widely respected as a national leader in this growing area of law. Her law partner, Charlie Lyons, is former state Director for US Senator Bob Casey.

According to Fox Sports Williamsport General Manager Todd Bartley, “To be joined by a person with the depth of knowledge with regard to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law and breadth of experience as Terry Mutchler in crafting legislation to make it the model for the entire nation is quite humbling.”

Prior to her six-year appointment at the OOR, Terry worked in the media law group and appellate practice group of a major Chicago law firm. Focused on privacy issues, Mutchler clerked for both the Supreme Court of Illinois and the Executive Office of the President of the United States during the Clinton Administration.

Before becoming an attorney, Mutchler was an investigative reporter for The Associated Press, becoming the first woman to be appointed AP Bureau Chief and Statehouse Correspondent in Springfield, Illinois and also serving as AP Bureau Chief in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Juneau, Alaska. Before that, she was a reporter in Pennsylvania and won several Keystone Awards, Pennsylvania’s top honor for reporting.

Common Cause awarded Mutchler the 2016 Bob Edgar Public Service Achievement Award for “outstanding contribution to transparency in government and integrity for her force of imagination, initiative and perseverance.”

Mutchler received her B.A. from the Pennsylvania State University and J.D. from the John Marshall School of Law in Chicago. She was a Bohnett Fellow for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

 

BACKGROUND 

Fox Sports Williamsport filed a Right-to-Know Law Request of the Williamsport Area School District for documents pertaining to the baseball team trip to Myrtle Beach during the 2017-2018 school year on June 17, 2019.

WASD RTK Request 6-17-19

Subsequently, on June 21, 2019 the Williamsport Area School District answered Fox Sports Williamsport with a request for a 30-day legal review of the requested documents.

WASD RTK Legal Extension Request 6-21-19

After a 30-day legal review of the requested documents, on July 18, 2019 the Williamsport Area School District answered Fox Sports Williamsport with a denial of records as noted in the attachment.

WASD RTK Response without attachments 7-18-19

Information on Terry Mutchler, obtained from mutchlerlyons.com.