KENTUCKY — Kentucky State University, which is being sued by formerstudents for violating their First Amendment rights in Kincaid v. Gibson(see Kincaid),is now also under fire in a public records dispute.
KSU subverted the intent of the state open-records law by failing tomaintain control over a public document reviewing its president, accordingto an opinion issued by the state attorney general’s office Feb. 21.
The university contracted a private consultant to evaluate and producea report on university President George Reid last year. Although the universitydenies that the 84-page report ever existed, the attorney general’s statementsaid the consultant was acting as an employee of the school and violatedthe intent of the Open Records Act by destroying all copies of the review.
But KSU did not violate the open-records law because the university”cannot make available for inspection and copying a public record thathas been destroyed,” said Deputy Attorney General Amye Bensenhaver in theopinion.
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 on Jan. 31.
KSU provided no explanation for the destruction of the record, accordingto the attorney generalís opinion, which concluded that the schooltherefore failed to properly manage its records. KSU spent more than $13,000on the project evaluating Reid, which the attorney general determined grantedthe public a legitimate interest in its content.
KSU officials did not return repeated calls for comment made by theReport.
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.
Belding said the investigation will probably take longer than usualbecause the university is also under investigation by the Kentucky StatePolice and the state auditor’s office in connection with an alleged embezzlementcase.
View the full text of the Kentucky attorney general’s opinion at: http://www.law.state.ky.us/civil/orom/00ord46.htm