Monday, April 21, 2014

We're Embarrassed.

We're embarrassed by a university that favors secrecy over transparency.    I'm also proud of the best editorial I've ever seen in Kent State University's student paper, starting with the headline:   

"The worst public transparency crisis since the last time around"

Student journalist Daniel Moore writes with force and precision.   Let me retype here the first four graphs of a powerful editorial.

From the DKS Editorial:  

University officials have declared they're done talking about the presidential search that found President-Elect Beverly Warren.  We wish we could be done too.

We wish we didn't have to remind the top lawyer at a state-funded institution of public records law.   But when General Counsel Vice President Willis Walker referred questions of public record to a private firm earlier this month, we feel something has gone horribly awry.

It's the latest in a series of progressively more-head-scratching offenses that won't go away until the school proves that a quarter-million dollars of public money was spent correctly.  By refusing to release any receipts or copies of any invoices that indicate finalists' names or identifying information, Walker is failing to provide proof that those funds were properly spent.  

Walker said Storbeck/Pimental & Associates, the university's private contractor who assisted the school in finding Warren, has been given all the records and the authority to release them if it wants.   He even suggested the firm could have already destroyed some of the records.

You read that right, Kent State University signed a contract that lets a search firm in Pennsylvania determine what is a public record in Ohio.  Akron Beacon Journal reporter Carol Biliczky reported that fact more than a week ago along with details on how Kent State officials had shredded documents.   How did Governor John Kasich react to a public institution shredding public records documenting the search for the top position at a state university, an action approved by the governor-appointed Board of Trustees?   He didn't.  

What does Governor John Kasich plan to do about a public institution signing a contract that allows a firm in Pennsylvania to determine what is public record in Ohio?    

Although I'm embarrassed by and ashamed of my employer, a university that thumbs its nose at Ohio's public records law, I'm proud of Kent State student journalists pushing for transparency and for holding university officials accountable.  I trust both student journalists and the Akron Beacon Journal will be asking for an interview with the Governor. 


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