For Keystone Politics, Jon Geeting makes the argument that Governor Wolf has the right to appoint people who agrees with his vision to cabinet positions or to head governmental agencies, and that’s what Governor Wolf did when it came to firing Erik Arneson as director for the Office of Open Records. Arneson was a long time staffer for former Senate President Dominic Pileggi and after the conservative coup in the Senate, Pileggi lost his position and was demoted to the lowly State and Local Government committee. It’s obvious that Corbett’s eleventh hour appointment of Arneson to the Office of Open Records was a patronage appointment because Arneson really isn’t going to have the same power and influence if he had stayed in Pileggi’s office.
That argument that Geeting makes is valid, but in my opinion there is something more to the argument than Wolf firing a patronage appointee who doesn’t fit his agenda. Governor Wolf argued for a transparent and trustworthy government when Arneson was appointed, in his inaugural address and in the letter he sent to Arneson regarding the issue. After using this rhetoric for an open and transparent government, Wolf came out swinging and whacked a leadoff home run on his second day on the job.
At the time of Arneson’s appointment, Wolf described the move as “opaque” and “murky,” and in his inaugural address, Wolf goes mentions that “we’ve been disappointed and frustrated to the point where we feel very cynical about our government and our future,” and that Pennsylvania wants a “government that works – one that is worthy of our trust.” In the letter that Wolf sent to Arneson, Wolf again points out that there was a lack of transparency in the process. In the letter, Wolf wrote “I have serious concerns regarding your recent appointment to the [Office of Open Records] Executive Director position by former Governor Corbett. The process leading to your appointment lacked transparency, was of questionable timing and appears to have been rushed through. It is precisely this style of governing that causes Pennsylvania’s citizens to become skeptical and lose trust that their state government is acting in their best interests.”
After Wolf fired Arneson, Jake Corman and Senate Republicans got their jockstraps in a twist, claiming that “honeymoon is over.” Personally, there was never going to be a honeymoon between Republican leadership and Governor Wolf. That was made loud and clear when Corman came out stating that he’ll personally take education funding and school children hostage for pension reform. What Wolf’s power play did was pin the Republicans into a corner where it would be foolish to muster a counter attack against an open and transparent government.