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Beshear seeks to intervene in WKU's lawsuit against newspaper

"Western Kentucky University denied records to college reporters, AG's office. . . In late January, Beshear found Western Kentucky University violated the Open Records Act by denying records to the newspapers 'relating to university's investigation(s) into allegations of sexual misconduct.'"
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By Terry Sebastian or Crystal Staley
News from Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear's office

FRANKFORT, KY. (March 23, 2017) - Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed a motion in Warren Circuit Court seeking to intervene in Western Kentucky University's lawsuit against two student newspapers.

The university denied requested documents by its college newspaper, the College Heights Herald, and the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky's student newspaper.

The university also refused to allow Beshear's office to confidentially review the withheld documents once the student newspapers appealed the denial of records to the Attorney General's office.

Beshear said the authority of the Attorney General to confidentially review withheld records is critical to enforce Kentucky's Open Records law, and WKU's lawsuit is yet another attack by a public university on the state's transparency laws.

"The anti-transparency stance by the leadership at Western Kentucky University is an attempt to turn Kentucky's Open Records Act into a 'trust me' law," Beshear said. "A university should lead by example and promote transparency, not run away from it. It's my hope that WKU's incoming president will help steer the university away from this legal battle and allow my office to review the documents."

In late January, Beshear found Western Kentucky University violated the Open Records Act by denying records to the newspapers "relating to university's investigation(s) into allegations of sexual misconduct." Because the university refused to provide the records Beshear requested for confidential review, the university failed to show that the records were protected by the exceptions claimed by the university.

Under Kentucky law, the Attorney General has the statutory authority to review confidential records related to an appeal. An appeal by the Attorney General carries the force of law unless a decision by his office is challenged in circuit court. WKU is challenging Beshear's decision by suing the student newspapers since a university cannot sue the Attorney General.

"Without a confidential review by my office, institutions can hide serious issues related to sexual assault, ignore victims and tell parents and families that a given campus may be safer than it is," Beshear said.

A hearing in the WKU case is scheduled in Warren Circuit Court at 9amCT on April 3, 2017, in front of Judge Steve Wilson.

Beshear filed a motion earlier this week in Franklin Circuit Court to intervene in Kentucky State University's lawsuit against the Kentucky Kernel. Beshear found Kentucky State University violated the Open Records Act by denying records relating to the university's investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

A hearing in the KSU case was originally scheduled for March 29, 2017,, but has been moved to April 5, 2017, at 9amET, in front of Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate.

Beshear currently has standing before a judge in Fayette County in a case against the University of Kentucky's denial of records to his office. No hearing has been set in this case.

This story was posted on 2017-03-24 02:47:18
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