By Bill Robinson
Around midday Wednesday, Eastern Kentucky University expects to release records related to the June departure of Debra Hoskins, former EKU Center for the Arts director, according to Judy Spain, the university’s counsel.
The announcement came Monday after Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway ruled EKU failed to comply with the state’s open-records law when it denied media requests for the records.
Agencies may appeal attorney general rulings to circuit court, but Spain indicated the university would comply.
The state open records law gives agencies three days to respond to open records requests, and the Richmond Register resubmitted the requests that previously had been denied.
Both the Register and the Lexington Herald-Leader had requested the records after the university announced Hoskins’ resignation on June 19 and then learned from minutes of the center’s community operations board that university officials had notified Hoskins on June 12 that she was being dismissed and to vacate her office.
The board voted 8-3 during a June 14 meeting to challenge the university’s action. But, Hoskins’ resignation was announced four weekdays later, rendering that issue a moot point.
However, both newspapers sought to learn the details behind Hoskins’ departure and the conflicting nature of information surrounding the event.
The attorney general’s ruling came in response to the Lexington newspaper’s appeal of the university’s denial, which it based on statues protecting personnel records and a confidentiality agreement it had reached with Hoskins.
Internal audits, as well as the termination letter given to Hoskins and the agreement she later reached with the university, were among the items the university had refused to produce.
The attorney general cited several court cases to explain why the university could not withhold the requested records or abide by a non-disclosure agreement it had reached with Hoskins.
“The disputed records ‘are directly related’ to Ms. Hoskins’ departure from EKU and ‘it is likely that the public interest in the details of the operation of a public agency could be advanced by the disclosure’ of those records,” according to the ruling. “As the matter currently stands, ‘there is an issue of transparency’ regarding Ms. Hoskins’ departure that can only be resolved by disclosure of internal audits of the Center she directed and personnel records relating to her performance as director.”
The statute which the university cited in its denial of the records request does not authorize nondisclosure of these records, Conway wrote, and EKU’s reliance on its confidentiality agreement with Hoskins was misplaced.