Access updates

NEW YORK ‘ The New York Court of Appeals denied a request to hear Cornell University’s latest appeal in a case that will decide whether its biotechnology records are subject to the state Freedom of Information Law.

In 2002, a lower court ruled in favor of former radio host Jeremy Alderson, who requested the files because he was concerned that the college was hiding the possible risks of genetically engineered crops from the public.

Cornell will now have to prove that each individual record is exempt from freedom of information laws.


MONTANA ‘ The Montana University System is appealing a district court ruling that held that meetings between the Commissioner of Higher Education and university presidents are subject to open-meetings laws. Oral arguments are expected to be heard by the Montana Supreme Court in late summer. The court granted summary judgment to Bob Anez, an Associated Press reporter who had been denied access to the meetings.


IOWA ‘ Hawkeye Community College agreed to a settlement with the community newspaper, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier in January. Hawkeye admitted to violating open-meetings laws when it fired its president in a closed meeting and agreed to pay $10,000 for the Courier‘s legal expenses.


MISSOURI ‘ The University of Missouri has settled a five-year lawsuit with The Kansas City Star for $77,806.

The Star filed suit in 1998 after the university denied access to audits from the previous five years, claiming that the records contained confidential material. The university appealed an October 2002 district court decision that ruled it had violated the sunshine law by withholding documents pertaining to finances, operations and compliance with laws and regulations.

But when university system’s new president, Elson Floyd, took office in January, he publicly said that he wanted to settle the lawsuit.

In the settlement, the university has agreed to release those and all future audits. The university also agreed to accept that it is a ‘public governmental body’ and to comply with Missouri’s Sunshine Law. In return, the Star dropped its claim that the university had intentionally violated the law and accepted less money than the almost $130,000 in legal costs that it had originally requested.