LSU’s Board of Supervisors intends to appeal a decision by a state judge that ordered LSU to turn over materials from its recent search for a president.
“LSU is disappointed in the ruling, but confident the decision will be reversed on appeal,” board Chairman Hank Danos said in a statement.
On Thursday, 19th Judicial District Judge Janice Clark granted a request by The Advocate’s parent company, Capital City Press, to compel the board to release the names and résumés of approximately three dozen finalists for the position.
The Advocate was joined in its lawsuit by the The Times-Picayune. A similar lawsuit, filed by LSU student paper The Daily Reveille’s Editor-in-Chief Andrea Gallo, will be heard by district judge Tim Kelley next week.
In his statement, Danos said LSU did not have the documents and therefore could not turn them over.
“To be clear, LSU conducted the presidential search in accordance with a 2006 statute that requires public disclosure when a candidate becomes an actual applicant,” Danos’ said.
That law balanced the public’s right to information, the need to recruit strong candidates and candidates’ right to privacy, Danos said.
Danos disputed media reports that the search had been conducted illegally.
“The judge ruled that certain information must be disclosed, not that the search was conducted illegally,” Danos said.
LSU named F. King Alexander, who eventually was awarded the job, as the only applicant.
The Advocate, among others, filed several public records requests for the names and submitted materials of the 35 semi-finalists and the five to seven finalists for the position.
Lori Mince, who represented The Advocate and The Times-Picayune, argued Thursday the names of the finalists and semifinalists are public record. Promises of confidentiality — which LSU attorney Jimmy Faircloth said had been given to the candidates by LSU’s search consultant — were no defense against a public records request, Mince said.
“The public does have a real interest in knowing who the board chose and whether F. King Alexander is the best candidate,” she argued.
Faircloth countered by saying ensuring confidentiality was the best way to recruit the most qualified applicants. He also said that much of the information sought by the media was proprietary information retained by the search consultant and that LSU did not have the records to hand over. Alexander was the only formal applicant for the position, he said, and therefore his name was the only one LSU was required to turn over.
“The president’s position has been filled,” he said. “It would serve no purpose except press curiosity to go into these people’s lives.”
LSU will appeal Clark’s ruling to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.