Attorney general accuses KSU officials of improperly destroying public record

Opinion says university subverted intent of law

KENTUCKY -- Kentucky State University, which is being sued by former students 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 to maintain control over a public document reviewing its president, according to an opinion issued by the state attorney general's office Feb. 21.

The university contracted a private consultant to evaluate and produce a report on university President George Reid last year. Although the university denies that the 84-page report ever existed, the attorney general's statement said the consultant was acting as an employee of the school and violated the 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 that has been destroyed," said Deputy Attorney General Amye Bensenhaver in the opinion.

Dan S. Green, a recently retired faculty member, said that last December he requested a copy of the evaluation of Reid that was distributed to the KSU Board of Regents at a meeting Nov. 16. After receiving no response from the university, Green appealed his request to the attorney general's office on Jan. 31.

KSU provided no explanation for the destruction of the record, according to the attorney generalĂ­s opinion, which concluded that the school therefore failed to properly manage its records. KSU spent more than $13,000 on the project evaluating Reid, which the attorney general determined granted the public a legitimate interest in its content.

KSU officials did not return repeated calls for comment made by the Report.

The state Department for Libraries and Archives is conducting an investigation into whether KSU violated the State Records Archives Act, said Richard N. Belding, the department's director of public records. Among other guidelines, the law requires public agencies to implement safeguards against the destruction or removal of public records.

Belding said the investigation will probably take longer than usual because the university is also under investigation by the Kentucky State Police and the state auditor's office in connection with an alleged embezzlement case.

View the full text of the Kentucky attorney general's opinion at:

reports, Spring 2000