Lawsuit against Kan. university seeks access to athletic director’s contract

KANSAS— A Lawrence newspaper and television station have asked a court toforce the University of Kansas to reveal the full terms of its contract withathletic director Lew Perkins.In the lawsuit filed Jan. 30, theLawrence Journal-World and 6News allege that the university’s refusal tohand over Perkins’ contract violates the Kansas Open Records Act. Theuniversity contends that employee contracts are “individually identifiablerecords,” which are exempt from disclosure under the open-records law.The Journal-World and 6News first requested the documents inDecember to end speculation about the full extent of Perkins’ compensation, saidRichard Brack, managing editor of the Journal-World. The five-yearcontract reportedly contains incentives or “supplemental income” that could pushPerkins’ annual compensation above $1 million, Brack said.”Like mostother states, Kansas is in some budget difficulty, so there’s an increasedinterest in how state funds are being spent,” Brack said. “I believe we shouldbe able to find out how much he’s paid because public funds are part of theequation.”The university denied the request for Perkins’ contract on twooccasions, citing an exemption to the open-records law that covers “personnelrecords, performance ratings or individually identifiable records pertaining toemployees.” The university’s decision not to release Perkins’ contractis consistent with a Kansas attorney general’s opinion in 1993 that Kansas StateUniversity did not have to release the contract of football coach Bill Snyder,said Kevin Boatright, interim executive vice chancellor for community relations. “The issue in question, the contract of Lew Perkins, has beenconsidered an ‘individually identifiable record,’ and on that basis, we havechosen not to provide it,” Boatright said. “We have been very forthcoming withmost parts of his employment arrangement.”In addition to Perkins’contract, the newspaper and television station requested documents relating toPerkins’ salary, benefits and the funding sources for his compensation. The university fulfilled most of those requests, disclosing that Perkinsreceives an annual base salary of $400,000 and fringe benefits, including twoautomobiles, two country club memberships and two season tickets to KU men’sbasketball games.Brack said the public should be able to know the fullpicture of what the University of Kansas is spending its money on.”We’ve done a lot of reporting on what we called the ‘athletics armrace,'” Brack said. “The basis for having a lot of these discussions is thebasic facts about whom gets paid what and where the money is coming from. It’slike pulling teeth getting this information from KU right now.”