KANSAS — The University of Kansas has released documents outlining the employment of its athletic director, including compensation records, after local and national media organizations sued the school for access to the records.
A ruling from a Douglas County District Court, issued Sept. 17, ordered the release of the employment agreement and the retention payment agreement of university Athletic Director Lew Perkins. The case was brought by the Kansas media outlet World Company, owner of the Lawrence Journal-World, the Kansas Press Association and The Associated Press. The University of Kansas and its sports division, the Athletic Corporation, were defendants in the suit. The documents were released to the media on Friday, Sept. 24.
World Company submitted a request for Perkins’ complete employment contract on Jan. 16, 2004. The University of Kansas denied the release of the contract but disclosed Perkins’ base salary of $400,000 a year. World Company filed a lawsuit on Jan. 22; the AP and Kansas Press Association later joined in the suit.
The district court ruled that because Perkins’ employment at the University of Kansas was paid for with public funds, his contract was subject to public scrutiny.
The initial request for information came from a local paper, the Lawrence Journal-World, for a story on Perkins’ contract and how state funds were being spent.
Journal-World Managing Editor Richard Brack told the Student Press Law Center in February that because Perkins’ pay involves state funds the public had a right to view the contract.
“There can’t be secret deals in open government,” Brack said.
The University of Kansas argued that since Perkins’ salary does not come solely from state funds, his pay records should be kept private. According to the documents, $165,000 of Perkins’ salary comes from state funds. The Athletic Committee at the university pays $210,000; the remaining $170,000 is paid by the Chancellor’s Endowment Association. Perkins earns $520,000 per year, with an opportunity for a $25,000 annual bonus.
“He’s not even paid halfway by state funds,” University of Kansas spokesman Kevin Boatright said. “We don’t apologize for paying him what we believe he is worth.”
Records that identify certain individuals and some personnel records are exempt from Kansas’ open-records law. Boatright said the university interpreted the law to mean Perkins’ employment records were exempt as well.
“The law is not cut and dry,” Boatright said. “The university thought we had a sound legal basis.”