MU blacks out names of personnel in report

Wednesday, May 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:20 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

When MU released the NCAA’s notice of allegations Tuesday, the report lacked an important aspect.

The names of the MU personnel and players involved in the investigation are missing from the 19-page document.

Black lines covered the names in the document, which outlines the findings from a 7½ -month investigation of MU’s men’s basketball program.

“The decision was made to make sure we were in compliance with the Buckley Amendment in the context of students,” UM system President Elson Floyd said. “In the context of employees of the university, the decision was made to exclude those names because it is personnel-driven not to include that as part of the disclosure.”

The Buckley Amendment, the name for the Family Education Right to Privacy Act of 1974, prevents MU from revealing personally identifiable information about a student.

Concerning the missing personnel names, MU journalism professor Charles Davis, director of MU’s Freedom of Information Center, cited a Missouri Sunshine Law exemption under which MU can redact the names.

“I can only assume that they cited the personnel exemption during the press conference, which seems handy enough of an exemption to hide this sort of information,” Davis said. “But if you read the exemption itself carefully, I think what you’ll find is that a lot of the language goes to hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting identifiable personnel.

“So if you think about that and take that analogy a bit further, that means they have to be doing one of those actions or contemplating doing one of those actions to university personnel in order to claim the exemption. Even then, they are to redact information about that personnel, that identifiable individual, not all individuals mentioned in the report.”

Exemption 3 states: “Hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees by a public governmental body when personal information about the employee is discussed or recorded.”

Jean Maneke, an attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said the redaction could fit to a broad interpretation of another Missouri Sunshine Law exception.

The key section of exception states: “Individually identifiable personnel records, performance ratings or records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment” may be exempt from public knowledge.

The NCAA’s report should not qualify as something that goes directly into a personnel record because the NCAA reviewed the actions of the program, not an individual, Maneke said.

Maneke also said, though, that the law should receive a more narrow interpretation.

Kay Hawes, an NCAA spokeswoman, said there is no NCAA regulation requiring names or parts of the document be redacted.

“Typically, these names are made public to both the press and the greater public as part of the getting to the bottom of the matter,” Davis said. “If it’s a use of the personnel exemption, I think it is one that is legally arguable and will ultimately be contested by some member of the media or members of the news media and quite possibly citizens of the state because it seems, at least, an open question as to whether the personnel exemption fits to anyone other than individuals they are thinking of discipline.”

During the news conference Tuesday, MU men’s basketball coach Quin Snyder said that because of the nature of the investigation, he could not discuss the status of the program’s personnel.

Late Tuesday, MU suspended associate coach Tony Harvey with pay, and assistant coach Lane Odom resigned to pursue other opportunities, a press release said.

Recent investigations of Auburn University’s basketball program and Mississippi State University’s football program did not have names redacted in released findings.

Davis also mentioned seeing copies of money orders related to the NCAA investigation of the University of Georgia’s basketball program.

UM system lawyer Phil Hoskins declined to comment on Tuesday as to why the names of all MU employees were redacted from the NCAA’s report.

“No, I’m not going to comment on that,” Hoskins said. “I don’t have any comment on why I won’t comment, either.”

Asked what exemption under the Missouri Sunshine Law those names were redacted, Hoskins refused to comment.

“You want me to comment on why I don’t have a comment,” he said. “I won’t comment on that either.”

The document did include the names of several recruits who decided to not attend MU. Because they did not attend MU, the names of Robert Whaley, James White, Geidrius Rinkevicius and Jeff Graves did not qualify for the redaction under the Buckley Amendment, and they appeared in the notice.

On several occasions, the report lists the basketball program of having impermissible contact and placing impermissible telephone calls to the players.

“Personally, I think it’s redacted to the point that it’s of no value to anyone but the committee itself,” Davis said. “Quite possibly that was the university’s objective when it set out.

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