KSU must give employee sexual misconduct report to Kernel, AG rules



Rick Childress

The Kentucky Attorney General ruled that Kentucky State University must give investigative documents pertaining to alleged sexual misconduct by a university employee over to the Kernel. 

The decision, rendered Tuesday, comes as the latest development in a string of open records disputes between the Kernel and some Kentucky universities which arose when the newspaper requested reports of sexual misconduct perpetrated by state university employees from every public university in the state. 

KSU is required to provide the Kernel with a copy of an investigative report— with names and personal identifiers redacted— which contains an allegation of sexual misconduct against a former KSU employee, the decision signed by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and Assistant Attorney General Gordon Slone stated.

This open records dispute began when a Kernel reporter sent an open records request to KSU in late 2016, which requested all investigative documents relating to employees accused of sexual misconduct in the previous five years.

KSU denied the request, claiming that federal privacy laws prevented the university from distributing the material. The Kernel appealed to the attorney general’s office. Under state law, the attorney general is responsible for determining if a public agency is legally withholding requested documents.

In that appeal, KSU is responsible for proving to the attorney general that the documents are protected by privacy law, the latest decision stated. But the university refused to give the documents to the attorney general, so that office ruled in favor of the Kernel in January 2017.

KSU appealed the attorney general’s decision to Franklin Circuit Court, and in January 2018, that court ruled that KSU had to turn over the documents to the attorney general. After the attorney general’s office reviewed those documents, it rendered Tuesday’s decision. 

The university does not have to provide two handwritten notes which pertain to the sexual misconduct investigation, the office ruled. Those documents were declared preliminary records and are exempted from the open records request. 

KSU has the opportunity to appeal the decision.