In this blog post we will post and then comment upon the responses received from both State agencies.
Letter to the Office of General Counsel (OGC)
On May 4, 2015 I sent a formal letter of complaint¹ to the Office of General Counsel. That letter reads in part as follows:
“The failure to deliver “high quality education” is documented by PASSHE’s own official data on constant dollars of total Educational and General Revenue per FTE student, the same proxy measure used by the “rating magazines” to assess the “quality of the total educational experience” at a college or university.The failure to deliver a PASSHE education “at the lowest possible cost to the students” is documented by comparisons between the financial aid packages of PASSHE students, with those of students who attend “All Institutions” across America, where 70% of America’s college students attend “public” universities.
The Commonwealth Attorney’s Act specifies the powers and duties of the OGC, in part, as follows:
“Under the Act, the General Counsel serves as chief legal advisor to the Governor and directs the legal activities of the executive branch.”
The allegations in this complaint predate the election of Gov. Wolf, as well as your appointment as General Counsel, and are not a complaint against the current administration but rather a chance to correct the actions, or inactions, of previous OGC attorneys serving as PASSHE Chief Counsels. (Emphasis added.)
If the allegations in this complaint are true, it is too late to “prevent” the alleged misconduct, but not too late for the Office of General Counsel to investigate it and, if appropriate, act to prevent future misconduct. And that is all that PASCU hopes to gain by submitting this complaint.”
Response from the Office of General Counsel
The full response² to my May 4, 2015 letter to the Office of General Counsel was dated May 11, 2015 and, in part, stated that two specific actions would be taken: 1) “Please know that I plan to share your letter with those who advise the Governor on education issues;” and 2) “In addition, please be assured that as the Commonwealth agency principally responsible to serve as PASSHE’s legal advisor, the Office of General Counsel will continue to work with PASSHE leaders and management to assist them in performing their public responsibilities in conformity with law.”
Letter to the Office of Inspector General (OIG)
Also on May 4, 2015 I sent a formal letter of complaint³ to the Office of Inspector General. That letter reads in part as follows:
I note that: “The Office of Inspector General’s mission is to ensure integrity, accountability and public confidence in Pennsylvania Government by preventing, investigating and eliminating fraud, waste, abuse and misconduct within all agencies under the jurisdiction of the Governor.” (Emphasis added.)
If the allegations in this complaint are true, it is too late to “prevent” the alleged misconduct, but not too late for the Office of Inspector General to investigate it and take action based on its findings. And that is all that PASCU is requesting by submitting this complaint.”
Response from the Office of Inspector General
The full response⁴ to my May 4, 2015 letter to the Office of Inspector General was dated May 12, 2015 and included the following key points: 1) “You also delivered a similar letter to the Governor’s General Counsel, Denise Smyler. By letter dated May 11, 2015, General Counsel Smyler responded to your letter to her;” and 2) “In light of your letter to General Counsel Smyler and her response, no further action on your May 4, 2015 letter to me is required at this time.” (Emphasis added.)
Comments on the Responses Received
I found the responses from both the General Counsel and the Inspector General to be very reassuring.
Although the General Counsel did not respond to my not-so-subtle suggestion “to correct the actions, or inactions, of previous OGC attorneys serving as PASSHE Chief Counsels,” she did offer to share my letter “with those who advise the Governor on education issues.”
That action alone could be a great step forward because, by giving Gov. Wolf an opportunity to set the matter straight at the beginning of his term, it is possible that he will take advantage of that opportunity and correct the grave injustice inflicted upon PASSHE students, parents and alumni donors since 2002.
Also reassuring were the following words from the General Counsel: “The Office of General Counsel will continue to work with PASSHE leaders and management to assist them in performing their public responsibilities in conformity with law.”
The response from the Inspector General was also reassuring in that he was aware of my letter to the General Counsel and her response to me. And although he declined to conduct an investigation into the allegations of malfeasance contained in my complaint—which would involve looking back at actions taken, or not taken, during the Rendell and Corbett administrations—his response suggested to me that the assurances from the General Counsel would be sufficient to correct the matter going forward.
The fact that he states that “…no further action on your May 4, 2015 letter to me is required at this time” really says it all. We will soon know if the Wolf administration is taking this matter seriously.
To be continued.