A judge has ruled that the University of Louisville attempted to withhold potentially “embarrassing and damaging” documents from the public.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Barry Willett ordered the school to turn over all documents used by former President James Ramey when he decided to keep the team out of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Willett also ruled that the university is required to pay the court costs for Dr. Peter Hasselbacher who had sought the records.
According to a report from WDRB.com, the U of L must conduct a “diligent” search for records possessed by the school or the school’s former NCAA compliance official, Chuck Smrt. The school has 30 days to comply.
The ruling comes after U of L filed a lawsuit asking the judge to rule that the Kentucky attorney general was wrong in finding the school violated open records laws when it allegedly conducted an “inadequate” search for records requested by Hasselbacher. U of L argued that records in Smrt’s possession were not covered under the open records law because he was hired as an independent consultant.
Willett refuted that argument. "The University has consistently refused to produce those records based on an unreasonably narrow interpretation of Dr. Hasselbacher's open records request," Willett ruled. "Moreover, the University has never articulated a plausible legal basis for denying Dr. Hasselbacher access to those records. Under the circumstances, the University's conduct appears to be nothing more than a deliberate attempt to conceal information that it considers to be embarrassing and damaging to its reputation."
U of L had initially responded to Hesselbach’s request with a one-sentence letter, stating that the university had no records to fill his request. Willett said this did not meet the open records law standard of requiring public agencies to engage in an active dialogue with persons requesting records.
"The University's conduct fell below the standards established by the Open Records Act," Willett ruled.