Attorney general accuses university of violating spirit of open records law

KENTUCKY – Kentucky State University, which is being sued by formerstudents for violating the First Amendment in Kincaidv. Gibson,is now under fire in a public records dispute.

The state attorney general found that KSU subverted the intent of thestate open records law by failing to maintain control over a public documentreviewing its president, according to an opinion issued Feb. 21.

The university contracted a private consultant to evaluate and producea report of President George Reid last year. Although the university deniesthat the 84-page report ever existed, the attorney general’s statementsaid the consultant, Edward Penson, was acting as an employee of the schooland violated the intent of the Open Records Act by destroying all copiesof the review.

But the attorney general found that KSU did not violate the open recordslaw because the university “cannot make available for inspection and copyinga public record that has been destroyed,” said Deputy Attorney GeneralAmye Bensenhaver in the opinion.

Dan S. Green, a recently retired faculty member, said that last Decemberhe requested a copy of the evaluation of Reid that was distributed to theKSU Board of Regents at a meeting Nov. 16. After receiving no responsefrom the university, Green appealed his request to the attorney general’soffice.

KSU provided no explanation for the destruction of the record, accordingto the attorney general’s opinion, which concluded that the school thereforefailed to properly manage its records. KSU spent more than $13,000 on theproject evaluating Reid, which the attorney general determined grantedthe public a legitimate interest in its content.

The state Department for Libraries and Archives is conducting an investigationinto whether KSU violated the State Records Archives Act, said RichardN. Belding, the department’s director of public records. Among other guidelines,the law requires public agencies to implement safeguards against the destructionor removal of public records.