Beshear Announces Plans to Intervene in UK’s Lawsuit against Kentucky Kernel

Attorney General Andy Beshear

University of Kentucky denied records to AG’s office

FRANKFORT, KY. (Sept. 7, 2016) – Attorney General Andy Beshear today announced his office will seek to intervene in the University of Kentucky’s lawsuit against its student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel.

At issue is the University of Kentucky’s attack on the Attorney General’s statutory right to review withheld records during an Open Records appeal.

“I do not take this step lightly,” Beshear said “In fact, I am not sure an Attorney General has ever intervened in this manner. But what is at stake is too important, and the ramifications are simply too great.”

Beshear said the power of the Attorney General to review withheld records is critical to enforce the Open Records law.

“Without a review, bad actors could ‘cheat the system’ by claiming a false exemption under federal or state law, and then refuse to provide the records that would refute their claim,” he said.

The case Beshear seeks to enter began when the Kentucky Kernel appealed a decision to the AG’s office earlier this year after the University of Kentucky’s denial of the newspaper’s request “to obtain copies of all records detailing the investigation by the University of Kentucky or the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity of a tenured professor and any allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault or any other misconduct.”

The Attorney General ruled Aug. 1 that records relating to the “university’s investigation of sexual harassment allegations leveled by a student against a professor were not shown to be protected by exceptions and privileges relied upon by the university where (the) Attorney General was not given records to review” under Kentucky law.

The University of Kentucky last week filed a lawsuit in Fayette Circuit Court asking a judge to make a ruling in the matter. Under Kentucky law, a circuit judge where the public agency is located or keeps its records hears the appeal of an Attorney General decision in Open Record cases.

“The University of Kentucky’s lawsuit stabs at the very heart of the Open Records law and this office’s ability to enforce it,” Beshear said. “In fact, UK would create a silver bullet for any bad actor to entirely avoid the Open Records law. For a university to push such a position is entirely irresponsible, especially when that university touts a First Amendment center.”

A copy of the motion will be available on the AG’s website by close of business today.

 

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