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Lobbyist Money Help  

Including UM under sunshine laws

February 10, 1999
By: Jennifer Lutz
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 382

JEFFERSON CITY - At MU, there is an ongoing battle as to weather university records fall under the state's sunshine laws, which makes the records of all public agencies open to the general public.

The university argues only certain records are open, while those trying to obtain records argue that all records fall under the law.

Two Kansas City Democrats, Rep. Tim Van Zandt and Rep. Marsha Campbell, have proposed legislation that would end this battle. The bill would specifically include the University of Missouri system under the sunshine law.

"The University of Missouri system thinks it is not a public entity and does not fall under the current sunshine law," Van Zandt said.

However, the University of Missouri maintains it has always been included under the sunshine law and has acted accordingly by handing over public records.

"The University of Missouri is a public institution which has been under the sunshine law since the first day the law was passed and we perform accordingly," said David Lendt, Director of University Relations. "Public records are handed over every day and the custodian of records complies."

The proposed legislation would maintain the University of Missouri system comply with the state law to open public meetings and records to anyone who wants the information.

"The University of Missouri system is a terribly open institution," said Jim Snider, lobbyist for the University of Missouri. "We have never taken the position we do not fall under the sunshine laws."

The Missouri Press Association and the Associated Students of the University of Missouri stated its support for the proposed bill.

Currently, the UM system is being sued by The Kansas City Star, which was denied access to an internal audit of university employees. UM proposes the specific audits are not public record under the court case Columbia Tribune Publishing Company v. Curators of the University of Missouri.

"We believe an internal audit is public record and falls under the current sunshine law," said Craig Nienaber, projects editor for the Kansas City Star.

"Using taxpayers money to support these lawyers defense to this is the height of arrogance," Van Zandt said.