LEXINGTON, Ky. — The University of Kentucky has filed a lawsuit against its student-run newspaper to appeal a state attorney general’s opinion that said the school violated the Kentucky Open Records Act.
The attorney general said the university wrongly withheld documents regarding a professor’s sexual harassment and assault case from the newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel.
The Herald-Leader reports (bit.ly/2c12MBX) the university filed suit Wednesday in Fayette County Circuit Court.
Over the summer the newspaper published a story about professor James Harwood, who resigned in February amid a sexual harassment investigation. The Kernel sought the university’s investigative documents, but the school refused. The Kernel appealed to the AG, which asked the university to show the documents so it could determine if they are exempt from public inspection. UK refused and decided to appeal the opinion.
The university has said it must protect victims from media and other government agencies. It also claims the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege.
“Our decision to appeal the opinion of the Office of the Attorney General is based on one thing — the obligation we have to victim survivors who have courageously come forward in the past under the assurance of confidentiality; and those who will follow,” university spokesman Jay Blanton said. “We have a legal obligation to protect their privacy and confidentiality. We have a moral obligation to protect them as well.”
Lexington attorney Tom Miller said students and taxpayers “deserve to know the full story of the professor who was forced to leave his employment due to his inappropriate conduct toward students.”
“While the university attempts to cast its appeal from the attorney general’s opinion as one necessary to preserve the trust placed in it by its students, its continued refusal to abide by the Open Records Act does little to merit that trust,” Miller said.
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com