Here’s the latest on the unfolding controversy at Murray State University.
The controversy centers on MSU’s partial denial of an open records request submitted by WPSD Local 6 for records confirming communications between former Circuit Court Judge Jamie Jameson and MSU officials, including MSU President Robert Jackson, aimed at killing an embarrassing story about the judge which the MSU public radio affiliate, WKMS, had investigated.
➡️ On November 17, WPSD appealed the university’s partial denial of news director Perry Boxx’s request to the Kentucky Attorney General.
WPSD attorneys Michael Abate and Rick Adams, of Louisville’s Kaplan, Johnson, Abate, and Bird, characterize MSU’s “misguided”
denial as “particularly troubling,” given the Judicial Conduct Commission’s “findings that MSU potentially joined Judge Jameson’s efforts to intimidate WKMS reporters into stopping an unflattering story about Judge Jameson.”
“There is simply no basis to claim—and MSU suggests none—that any communication among MSU administrators and employees ‘regarding WKMS’ is somehow protected by the First Amendment. It would be absurd to allow MSU to invoke the First Amendment’s press protections to prevent the public from accessing public records that may reveal MSU’s attempts to infringe on [WKMS former station manager Chad] Lampe’s fundamental First Amendment right to report the news. But that is precisely what MSU asks this office to do. MSU asks this office to disregard the Open Records Act—the public’s primary vehicle for holding its government officials accountable—in favor of secreting away public records that may reveal serious misconduct by MSU officials. Still worse, it does so by wrapping itself in the protections of the First Amendment after the JCC found by clear and convincing evidence that MSU administrators acquiesced to Judge Jameson’s request to contact Chad Lampe for information about his reporting on Judge Jameson using the Open Records Act.”
In sum, they maintain, “it is difficult to imagine a more cynical attempt to withhold production of public records than MSU’s efforts here.”
Abate and Adams proceed to repudiate each of the remaining arguments advanced by the university, emphasizing its inconsistent position that WPSD’s “request is at once too general and too specific,” explaining:
“MSU complains that the request is not sufficiently precise because it is not limited by date; yet, in the very next paragraph complains the provided date range is too burdensome. MSU cannot have it both ways.”
Finally, WPDS’s attorneys repudiate Murray State’s shotgun approach to legal justification for heavy redaction of the handful of records disclosed.
“MSU has not even attempted to make the showings required to invoke its claimed exemptions. Its attempt to assert multiple exemptions over large swaths of records without explanation is ‘simply put...not how the ORA process works.’”
The Attorney General issued notification of WPSD’s appeal late this afternoon. The office will publish an open records decision determining whether MSU violated the open records law within 20 business days — or 50 business days if the OAG places the appeal on extension.
Either party — WPSD or MSU — may thereafter appeal the OAG’s open records decision to the Calloway Circuit Court should they disagree with all or any part of the decision.
➡️ In other news, WPSD filed a new open records request with Murray State University on November 16. The request is a deeper dive into the interaction between university officials and WKMS, seeking records relating to meetings and communications concerning WKMS’s “purpose and mission,” “political perceptions of WKMS,” complaints received by officials about WKMS, whether investigative reporting is or should be part of WKMS’s mission, budget issues, accreditation, and WKMS’s role in student education.
What began as an embarrassing story about a since removed judge has escalated into something far more disturbing that may ultimately prompt a reevaluation of President Jackson’s baleful influence.
The power of public records!