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Acting PA State Police Commissioner, Col. Marcus Brown

Paul Gordon Collier- Before Governor Tom Wolf took office, he selected a new PA State Police Commissioner, Col. Marcus Brown, to replace Col. Frank R. Noonon.  Noonan was from Clarks Summit PA, Brown was coming off of a position as the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

At the time, Tom Wolf had this to say about his selection, “Colonel Marcus Brown has been in law enforcement for 25 years and has improved each law agency he has led.  As the head of the Maryland State Police, he led a commitment to a diverse workforce by recruiting in areas with high minority populations and historically black colleges.  As a result of his leadership, the Maryland State Police is one of the most diverse agencies in the region.”

Brown is the current acting commissioner until he gets confirmed in the PA Senate.  That confirmation faces a new challenge, not based on Brown’s law enforcement experience, but on what he wears.

Brown’s previous law enforcement experience was in California.  What’s missing from Brown’s resume is any PA State Police experience or certification. Coming in from the outside, Brown’s selection is causing waves in the department that may have found expression in a Facebook group started by retired PSP Trooper, Thomas Stuckey.  The Name of the Facebook page is “he didn’t earn it, he shouldn’t wear it.”

What Stuckey is referring to is the uniform that Brown now wears, one which, Stuckey claims, is only earned if you go through the PSP Academy, which Brown has not.  The Facebook group has over 2400 members and counting, mostly retired PSP troopers.

Stuckey does not have an issue with Brown being the Police Commissioner, he only has a problem with Brown wearing the uniform.  Stuckey explains,  “You don’t see the secretary of defense putting on an army uniform. You don’t see the secretary of the navy putting on a navy uniform. Those uniforms are earned.”

The Wolf administration has answered this critique through their spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, who said,“Colonel Brown believes that he should wear the uniform in order to represent the organization because he has such tremendous respect for the men and women who every day wear that uniform and are out on the streets.”

It should be noted that two other PA State Police Commissioners, Dan Dunn and Frank Noonan, who did not go through the PSP Academy chose not to wear the uniform.

While the Stuckey group was created in response to Brown’s decision to wear the PA State uniform, the issue of Governor Wolf hiring a PA State Commissioner from outside the PA State Police ranks has riled some.  Wolf’s move is seen by some within the PSP community as telegraphing an adversarial nature with the PSP right at the beginning of his 4-year term.  Others applaud Wolf, believing that the PSP needs a fresh perspective to help create more diversity in the ranks.

Here are some of the comments from the Facebook page:

Ken SmithHe didn’t earn it He shouldn’t wear it

It takes a LOT to EARN that uniform. Most people don’t even KNOW what it takes, even BEFORE putting your life on the line. For this POLITICIAN to wear the PSP uniform MAKES ME SICK!

Janet DeLucaHe didn’t earn it He shouldn’t wear it

Were there not any PSP officers that could fill this position?

Pollyanna Vastine BarrallHe didn’t earn it He shouldn’t wear it

This is a joke. My husband EARNED the right to wear a Pennsylvania State Police uniform. He put in the time and is still protecting and enforcing to the bestof his ability.

You want to wear it? Earn it. Just because you are appointed doesn’t give you the right to act like you went through the paces for that honor.

That’s a disgrace!

Duffy MargesonHe didn’t earn it He shouldn’t wear it

Dan Dunn and Frank Noonan had respect for the uniform and those who DID earn it, so they did not wear it. This new poser, wannabe statie obviously has no respect for either.

Morgan MercerHe didn’t earn it He shouldn’t wear it

I am the daughter of a retired state police men and I think this is absolutely appalling. Troopers put blood, sweat, and hard work into finishing the academy and the uniform is a symbol for that, among other things. Brown wearing this violates that symbol and is an insult to all troopers who have put in the hours. That he would have the audacity to think he deserves wearing it says a lot about him

Here is the latest from Tom Stuckey himself,

Tom StuckeyHe didn’t earn it He shouldn’t wear it

All !!! I want to thank everyone for your support and encouragement!! I have just completed calling all the Pa Senate reps. and asking them to NOT confirm Mr. Brown. I did an interview with FOX43 today that will be on at 5&6 tonight. Please call your Senators!!! Some have not heard of this. I will continue to push until Mr. Brown is removed. Grey88 / Grey Nation!!

The group has gained an additional 500+ likes in the past 24 hours and appears to be catching momentum, with an effort galvanizing around stopping the confirmation of Brown in the Republican-controlled PA State Senate.

Our region’s State Senator is Republican Joe Scarnati.  If you would like to call Scarnati to either support or oppose the confirmation of Col. Marcus Brown, you can call his Harrisburg office at 717-787-7084

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Erik Arneson

Paul Gordon Collier- On January 9th, Office of Open Records Executive Director Terry Mutchler resigned from her post a news conference in the Capital Rotunda.  She was originally appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in 2008.  The appointment followed the signing of the Right to Know Law, which gives Pennsylvanians a right to access to public records.   The office was created to oversee the execution of the Right to Know law.

The timing of Mutchler’s resignation is questionable, as it opened the door for then-Governor Tom Corbett to appoint a new Director to a six year term, which he did 2 days later.  Governor Corbett selected a republican senate staffer, on Januaary 11th. The move was met with ciriticism from the democrats and then-governor-elect Tom Wolf.  Mutchler’s term officially expired in April, but Governor Corbett had not chosen to re-appoint her or replace her.  Mutchler’s reason for resigning was given as taking an opportunity to work for a Philadelphia law firm.

Arneson is a Republican Senate Aid, who was the communications and policy director for Republican Sen. Dominic Pileggi since 2005.  He was also one of the  architects of the rewriting of the Right to Know law.

At the time of the appointment, then-Governor-elect Wolf questioned the ‘closed door’ nature of the 11th hour appointment.  While he did not question Arneson’s ability to do the job, he questioned the political motivation behind such a late move by Governor Tom Corbett.

He stated, at the time of the appointment, “I think this is the kind of thing that makes people skeptical. It makes them suspicious that something isn’t right.”

After being sworn in, Tom Wolf quickly moved to fire Arneson, who initially found out he lost his job when he showed up only to be denied access to his office.

Now Arneson is responding to the firing by suing Governor Tom Wolf.  The legal issue here is whether Governor Wolf has the constitutional right to fire a Corbett appointee on the basis that the appointee was made in the last days of the Corbett administration.  The lawsuit was joined by the Senate Majority Caucus.  It seeks an immediate injunction against Wolf’s actions, which would restore Arneson to the director position, at least until a final ruling could be made.  A hearing is scheduled for February 3rd.  We will follow up when we get the results of that hearing.

Here is a part of Governor Wolf’s response to the lawsuit:

By removing Mr. Arneson, I am standing up against an effort to destroy the integrity of the Office of Open Records and turn it into a political operation.  These attempts to change the office, which exists to protect the public’s right to know, are the exact reasons people distrust their state government. When given the choice between protecting the public and playing politics, I will stand with the people of Pennsylvania.”

“The actions taken by my predecessor in the eleventh hour, when he named Erik Arneson, a longtime Republican staffer, as executive director of the Office of Open Records, were anything but open and transparent.  As a public servant I strive to promote democracy and change the culture in Harrisburg. I will continue to fight for the integrity of the Office of Open Records. Today’s lawsuit does nothing to alter my conviction.”

Republicans argue that Wolf’s firing of Arneson because he didn’t like the way Arneson was appointed is a violation not only of the people’s trust in ways that far surpass Corbett’s 11th hour action, but is also overtly illegal.

The political wrangling over an office which is all about government accountability to the people it serves is not lost on any political observer, no matter their political persuasion

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