"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," wrote Justice James J. Fitzgerald 3d in the high court's 4-2 decision.
Paterno's Penn State salary has been a closely guarded secret for years. Estimates have put his compensation at above $1 million.
The ruling came in a case that began in 2002 when a reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News asked the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) for the salaries of Paterno and three other Penn State officials. The agency granted the request, but the university went to court.
Yesterday's decision is expected to pave the way for the disclosure of not just Paterno's salary, but the salary of any Penn State employee enrolled in the retirement system. Enrolling in the system makes each a "state employee" under state law, the ruling said.