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University Of Louisville Sues To Prevent Release Of Basketball Scandal Records

U of L

The University of Louisville has asked a judge to overrule an Attorney General’s opinion that it wrongly refused to release records related to its basketball scandal.

U of L filed suit Friday in Jefferson Circuit Court against a blogger who sought documents related to then-president James Ramsey’s decision in February to remove the men’s basketball team from postseason contention. The attorney general’s office ruled the documents were wrongly withheld.

The attorney general’s decision on Sept. 1 stated that U of L improperly denied a request from Peter Hasselbacher, who typically covers health and research issues on his blog, the Kentucky Health Policy Institute. The university’s suit seeks attorney’s fees and names Hasselbacher the defendant, as required by Kentucky law.

“I anticipated this was coming but when you’re hit with a lawsuit that wants you to pay legal fees and other damages, that makes you sit up and take notice,” Hasselbacher said Tuesday afternoon.

John Karman, U of L spokesman, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

U of L is still under NCAA investigation over allegations that former staff member Andre McGee hired an escort service to provide strippers and sex to recruits and players. In announcing the self imposed ban in February, Ramsey acknowledged that the internal investigation revealed at least one NCAA violation. The university’s internal investigation is ongoing, the Courier-Journal reported last week.

Hasselbacher filed his records request days after Ramsey announced the ban.

U of L’s records custodian initially denied Hasselbacher’s request, claiming no records existed.

“It’s inconceivable to me that no records exist,” Hasselbacher said.

Upon Hasselbacher’s appeal, the attorney general’s office found that U of L was wrong to interpret his request as seeking only those records Ramsey had in hand on the day he made the decision. The request should have covered any records leading up to the decision, according to the attorney general’s office. (Read the opinion)

The university also failed to conduct a comprehensive search for records and wrongly withheld documents held by its outside investigator, Chuck Smrt, according to the opinion.

“The university cannot avoid the provisions of the open records act by housing public records with its investigator,” the attorney general’s opinion said.

The university claimed in its suit that Smrt is an independent, outside consultant and not a public agency. Therefore, he is not subject to the Open Records Act.

U of L’s suit asks a judge to rule that it didn't have to turn all records related to the NCAA investigation over to the attorney general’s office for an in-camera review and that its outside investigator is not subject to open records laws.

Hasselbacher provided a copy of the complaint, sent to him Friday by the university. Read it here:

Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546.

Disclosure: Peter Hasselbacher has donated to KyCIR. In 2015, the University of Louisville, which for years has donated to Louisville Public Media, earmarked $3,000 to KyCIR as part of a larger LPM donation. University board members Stephen Campbell and Sandra Frazier have donated.

Kate Howard is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.