Ky. university ordered to release amounts from private donors

KENTUCKY — The state attorney general last week issued an opinion that the University of Louisville should have released the amounts private donors have given to the school after the information was requested two months ago.

The opinion was in response to an open-records request filed by an ESPN producer in April. In her request, Justine Gubar asked for “records of contributions along with donors’ names, publicly identified or not, to the athletic department including the Cardinal Athletic Fund and all other entities that do fundraising for the athletic department,” according to the state attorney general’s opinion.

Gubar appealed the university’s decision not to release the donors’ names and amounts to the Kentucky attorney general on May 2, according to the opinion.

Although agreeing that the university had the right to withhold donors’ names, the opinion states that the school improperly withheld the amounts donors had given.

“While we concur with the University in the view that existing legal authority permits nondisclosure of the names of private donors, we are aware of no authority permitting nondisclosure of the amounts donated by private donors,” the opinion said.

William Morison, the university’s open-records officer, said he should have sent the amounts when he responded to Gubar’s initial request. He has since sent that information, he said.

ESPN officials said Gubar needed the names for the story she was working on and dollar amounts alone would not work.

“Our take on this is, to reveal the dollar amounts without the names really doesn’t help us,” said Josh Krulewitz, director of media relations for ESPN. “It’s not what we were looking for. It doesn’t really help in regards to what we’re looking for in this instance.”

Krulewitz said he did not know the context of the request but said Gubar was looking specifically for names.

The opinion relied in part on a May 20 state appeals court ruling that kept secret more than 45,000 University of Louisville Foundation donors’ names. The ruling, which came in a case where Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper had asked for the donors’ names, overturned a Jefferson County Circuit Court ruling that ordered the release of the names.

“In adopting the Court of Appeals’ reasoning, we note that the court did not extend privacy protection to the amounts donated,” the opinion said.

Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for the Courier-Journal, said the state attorney general’s opinion is merely the natural outcome of the May 20 court decision.

“This opinion is a good example of the problems that are going to be created by the Court of Appeals’ decision,” Fleischaker said. “It’s a blanket presumption that you can’t get the names of the donors, although you can get the amounts.”

A motion for discretionary review, a request to the Kentucky Supreme Court for it to hear an appeal of the Court of Appeals’ May 20 ruling, was filed Thursday, according to the Kentucky court system Web site.

–By Sean Hill

Read related coverage