The University of Louisville has responded to a request by the state attorney general to justify its refusal to turn over documents to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, in the latest step in an ongoing battle over public records.
In a letter dated July 18, U of L’s outside counsel said KyCIR’s public records appeal is moot since university officials earlier this month made public its final audit report.
The report by Strothman and Company, a Louisville-based auditing firm, examines the school’s financial controls and was ordered after a series of high-profile thefts at the institution.
University officials presented a final version of the report to the board of trustees audit committee on July 2, the same day school officials were required to respond to Attorney General Jack Conway and provide a copy of the draft report and other related information.
Since the report was considered final July 2, that document was provided to the attorney general’s office, not any draft report.
In the latest correspondence, the university’s attorney, Craig Dilger, also continued to assert the school’s denial of other correspondence related to the audit, which KyCIR is seeking.
“Once final agency action is taken, the previous drafts and any correspondence related to those drafts are not available unless the drafts or correspondence are incorporated into the final agency action,” he wrote.
Dilger noted in the letter to the attorney general that a draft of the audit report was presented to university board members on April 10, though those copies were “counted prior to distribution and were collected before the conclusion of the meeting.” He said that was to allow the university and Strothman officials to “discuss the consulting report at an early stage in the process before its finalization.”
The contents of that draft have been the subject of wide speculation both inside and outside of University of Louisville.
The university initially refused to release the report, saying it was a draft. The KyCIR newsroom appealed, and the school issued a report. University officials continue to refuse to release other documents, notes and communications between the school and the firm in relation to the audit, claiming the request was too broad.
Dilger said in his letter that the school has roughly 6,000 employees and 22,000 students and that an attempt to locate communications from this number of people is “simply over-broad and burdensome.”
Mark Hebert, a spokesman for U of L, declined to comment Monday afternoon, saying the appeal is in the hands of the attorney general.
A decision by the state attorney general on KyCIR’s appeal will be made on or before August 20.
Reporter Kristina Goetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 814.6546.