Image via WikipediaHighland Heights, Ky.-based Northern Kentucky University may file a civil suit in Campbell County Circuit Court following a mixed ruling by the Attorney General's office to a public records request by the school's newspaper, The Northerner.
Northerner reporter Jesse Call in March requested access to records concerning grievances filed against the university by employees Michael Griffin and Blanche Pringleo-Smith, which included correspondence among the school's Human Resources department and seven employees, according to an account in the college paper. The university refused Call's request, saying its investigation was ongoing and that poring over voluminous documents would be unduly burdensome.
The Northerner appealed to the Attorney General's office pursuant to Kentucky's public records law [KRS 61.870-61.884]. The AG sided with the university regarding withholding copies of the grievances and records directly related to the ongoing inquiry under the public records law exemptions [KRS 61.878] until the university takes final action concerning the dispute. However, the AG found there was "not sufficiently clear and convincing evidence" that producing correspondence and documentation unrelated to the grievance would pose a burden to the college. In other words, compliance with a public records request necessarily involves the expending of some time and man-hours, but that in itself does not satisfy the "unduly burdensome" exemption under the act.
Under the statute, the university has 30 days from the AG's decision to determine whether it will turn over the non-exempt records to The Northerner or pursue the matter further in a civil lawsuit.