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Penn State must disclose salaries of Paterno, administrators

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The salaries of Penn State coach Joe
Paterno and the school's top administrators must be disclosed by
the state retirement system, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The 4-2 decision said the Commonwealth Court, which had ordered
the disclosure, properly balanced the public's interest in knowing
details about retirement system finances against the effects
disclosure might have on reputations and personal security.

There's been speculation for years that Paterno is among the
highest-paid coaches, but the numbers have never been public.

Alabama's Nick Saban became the highest-paid coach in college
football at $4 million per year when he was hired by the Crimson
Tide after last season. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops makes over $3 million
and several coaches, including Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Florida's
Urban Meyer and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier make upward of $2
million annually.

The Paterno case was the result of a 2002 request by The
Patriot-News in Harrisburg that sought the salaries of Paterno and
three other Penn State officials from the State Employees'
Retirement System.

The retirement board had granted the request, but disclosure was
put on hold while the university appealed.

"We hold that the public does in fact have a right to such
information to the extent necessary to justify all guaranteed
disbursements from the fund," wrote Justice James J. Fitzgerald
III for the majority.

Penn State issued a statement later Tuesday saying university
officials would not pursue any further appeals.

It was not immediately clear when the information would be
released. Retirement system spokesman Bob Gentzel had no immediate
comment.

In addition to Paterno, the paper also sought information
regarding vice president and provost Rodney Erickson, vice
president and treasurer Gary Schultz and former budget officer
Richard Althouse.

The ruling applies to their names, service histories and
salaries but does not include their addresses, phone numbers or
Social Security numbers.

Paterno, 80, has been head coach for 42 years, a record for
major college football. He holds records for bowl appearances (33)
and postseason wins (22) and his 371 total victories put him two
behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden for most among major college
coaches.

Penn State had said releasing salaries would be unfair to those
hired with an understanding their pay would not be made public and
that disclosure might harm morale or make it harder to recruit and
retain talent.

"Individuals and private entities cannot reasonably expect the
commonwealth to keep secrets from its citizens regarding the
disbursement of public funds, past, present or future," Fitzgerald
wrote.

The dissenting opinion by Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy said the
information Patriot-News reporter Jan Murphy sought did not qualify
as a public record under the state's Right-to-Know Law.

"That information may become a public record at the time the
retirement benefits are computed and paid by [the retirement
system], but until that point, there has been no disbursement of
public funds or even the anticipation of disbursement," Cappy
said.

Penn State is classified as a "state-related" university and
so is not subject to the Right-to-Know Law, but Paterno and the
others are enrolled in the retirement system, which the law does
cover. The school gets about 10 percent of its $3 billion-plus
budget from the state.

The Legislature is currently considering bills that would extend
the open records law to Penn State and the other three
state-related universities: Temple, Lincoln and Pitt.

Justice Cynthia A. Baldwin, a Penn State trustee, did not
participate in the case.

It was not immediately clear when the information might be
released. Neither Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon nor retirement
system spokesman Bob Gentzel offered immediate comment.