AG: UofL broke law over documents related to ban on post-season play

Updated: Sep. 2, 2016 at 12:47 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The University of Louisville violated the state's open records law by failing to provide records related to a ban on the men's basketball team's post-season play, the Attorney General's Office determined on Thursday.

UofL denied Dr. Peter Hasselbacher's February 10, 2016 request for "all the documents, reports, and other information [University of Louisville] President [James] Ramsey had in hand to cause him to [suspend tournament and post-season play for the University of Louisville's Men's basketball team] on behalf of the university." Hasselbacher also requested all related records from any other party that authorized or supported the ban.

UofL denied Hasselbacher's request based on the nonexistence of responsive records. Hasselbacher appealed the university's decision several days later, questioning its compliance with the Open Records and Open Meetings Act and arguing that such a decision would not be made without the existence of records.

In response to the appeal, the Attorney General's Office said it asked the university to "describe how it conducted its search for records in President Ramsey's custody, and records in the custody of other parties 'such as an administrator or a program director in the athletics department.'" The AG's office said the university responded as follows:

"President Ramsey has confirmed that he had no documents in-hand on February 4, when the decision was made to suspend post-season play for the Men's Basketball team. Additionally, Chuck Smrt, the University's contracted NCAA investigator, has confirmed that he did not provide any documents directly to President Ramsey. Mr. Smrt confirmed he brought a copy of NCAA Bylaw provisions to his meeting with the President, and he maintained that copy following that meeting."

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The AG's office determined that the university acknowledged that records related to the post-season ban exist by implying, in its correspondence with the AG's office, that Smrt possessed them.

"The University states that Mr. Smrt was present when Dr. Ramsey determined to ban the men's basketball team from 2016 post-season play and provided only a copy of the NCAA Bylaws," the AG's office wrote in its finding. "Mr. Smrt, according to the University, provided no additional records during that meeting. Regardless, his knowledge of the investigation (and the records collected and created as part of that investigation) were used, at least in part, to form the basis for the decision. The records Mr. Smrt has gathered pursuant to his investigation are public records."

The AG's office said the university's search for records pertaining to Hasselbacher's Open Records Request "can best be described as a cursory search. We find that its search was inadequate. The University should conduct a more comprehensive search aimed at locating the records identified in Dr. Hasselbacher's request and not just the primary players in this event. Until it has done so, its duties under the Open Records Act will not be fully discharged."

Attorney General Andy Beshear said either party has the option of appealing his finding.

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