The Richmond Register

November 5, 2012

Now, who has something to hide?

By Bill Robinson
Register Editor

RICHMOND — The move by Debra Hoskins, former executive director of the EKU Center for the Arts, seeking to block release of her personnel records and audits of her management speaks volumes.

If she had been unjustly dismissed, wouldn’t she want the record of her management made public?

Some university officials and others close to the the art center’s management have quietly suggested for some time that those who questioned Hoskins’ removal would understand why if the records of her management were released. While Hoskins made many loyal friends during her tenure, university insiders said there was another side to the story that the public didn’t see.

In rejecting Freedom of Information requests for the records, the university cited statutes protecting personnel records and its separation agreement with Hoskins, which also barred release of information.

After the state attorney general ruled that neither the statute nor EKU’s agreement with Hoskins were grounds for withholding the records, the university said it would release them.

Although Hoskins was the subject of the records, the state’s Open Records law does not give her standing to appeal the attorney general’s ruling. The university then backtracked and said it would appeal the attorney general’s ruling on her behalf.

This entire soap opera could have been avoided if university officials had taken the art center’s community operations board into its confidence back in June and told its members in executive session why they wanted to remove Hoskins.

Instead, the university preempted the board in an effort to demonstrate it had sole control of center personnel.

The situation then devolved into what appeared to be a turf battle between EKU President Doug Whitlock and former state representative Harry Moberly, who wrote the legislation that largely funded the center and then became chair of its community operations board.

Whitlock got the university’s board of regents to affirm his control over university personnel. Then Moberly got the center’s community operations board to insist on its right, as spelled out in legislation  he drafted, not to have a center employee dismissed without its concurrence.

Hoskins resignation made the immediate dispute a moot point, and Whitlock agreed to negotiate a new memorandum of understanding with the center board.

However, this embarrassing soap opera could have been avoided, and Hoskins could have been spared humiliation, if the university had in the beginning treated the community operations board as a partner instead of a servant.