LSU to appeal public records ruling

LSU’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to appeal 19th Judicial District Judge Janice Clark’s ruling that the university illegally denied The Advocate and other news outlets the names and other information related to LSU’s search for a new president.

LSU general counsel Shelby McKenzie told the board the university followed all applicable public records laws and would be willing to take its case to the Louisiana State Supreme Court, if necessary.

Clark, of Baton Rouge, issued a one-paragraph ruling April 25, saying the documents requested by The Advocate and the Times-Picayune should have been surrendered by LSU.

“The Court … declares that the requested records herein sued upon are indeed public records in accordance with the Louisiana Public Records Act,” the minute entry says.

McKenzie recommended appealing Clark’s ruling in light of the April 30 ruling by fellow state Judge Timothy Kelley in a similar case involving the LSU student newspaper, The Daily Reveille.

We have “two diametrically opposed decisions in the same jurisdiction,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie called it a “moral obligation” to keep private the names of 35 candidates LSU considered to become the university’s next president.

LSU argued during the hearing before Clark that F. King Alexander, who eventually got the job, was the only official “applicant” and therefore the only name that LSU was obligated to release.

LSU chose Alexander after contracting with R. William Funk and Associates, a search firm.

Consultant Bill Funk advised board members that sitting college presidents generally wouldn’t apply; they would have to be recruited. Funk also told board members a sitting president wouldn’t apply “if their recruitment became known.”

All candidates considered for the job were recommended by Funk via his own proprietary information. There were approximately 100 people under consideration for the job; that list was whittled down to about 35, then reduced to 10.

LSU Search Committee Chairman Blake Chatelain asked Funk to pick five candidates to be interviewed, McKenzie said.

Only three applied. The three interviews weren’t formal interviews. They were “exchanges of information,” on both sides McKenzie said.

The search committee zeroed in on Alexander after those informal interviews, McKenzie said.