Louisiana’s top court on Friday let stand a lower court ruling that LSU must make public only the names and résumés of four of the 35 candidates considered during the school’s long-concluded secret presidential search.
Attorneys for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune had asked the state Supreme Court to order the release of information on all 35 candidates, arguing the documents are public records, but the justices rejected that request without comment.
Advocate attorney Scott Sternberg said LSU attorney Jimmy Faircloth indicated late Friday afternoon that the records relating to the four finalists will be released next week.
“It’s still a victory for transparency; it’s just not a total victory,” Sternberg said.
A three-judge panel of the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in December that LSU must turn over information from only the finalists — three people interviewed and a fourth person who withdrew from the process.
The Supreme Court affirmed that decision Friday.
The newspapers’ attorneys had argued in writing to the high court that the appellate court’s ruling frustrates the purpose of the Louisiana Public Records Act, which is to ensure the public is kept abreast on matters of public interest.
LSU’s presidential search ended in 2013 with its selection of F. King Alexander, former president of California State University in Long Beach, California.
The Advocate has been trying to obtain the records associated with the search since February 2013. The newspaper sued LSU in April 2013 after the board refused to release them. The Times-Picayune joined the case a week later.
The board took the position that it was required to provide information only on those who applied for the job, and Alexander was the only “applicant.” The board said the other 34 candidates never applied.
State District Judge Janice Clark, of Baton Rouge, disagreed and ordered the board to produce the information on all 35 candidates, prompting the board’s appeal to the 1st Circuit. Only the newspapers asked the Supreme Court to review the 1st Circuit ruling.
“We hoped the Supreme Court would agree with the trial court that complete transparency in public hiring is not only required by the law but is in the public’s interest, and we are disappointed that the Supreme Court has declined to review the case,” said Lori Mince, who represents The Times-Picayune in the case.
The 1st Circuit panel reasoned that the 35 candidates were part of a broad wish list compiled by a search committee and may not actually have consented or sought to be considered for the post.