Two recent cases in the states of Colorado and California have seen universities "called on the carpet"
for violations of Open Meetings and Open Records laws. The plaintiffs in these cases are media outlets, employee unions and the general public. The Colorado case settled with a finding against the University,
and all indications point to a similar verdict in the California case.
Colorado State University was sued by three media outlets, The Coloradoan, The Pueblo Chieftain and The Colorado Independent, who accused the University of conducting business illegally behind closed doors. District Court Judge Stephen Schapanski ruled that the University's Board of Governors broke the law when it held secret meetings to elect a new system chancellor. The Board of Governors responded to the ruling by releasing audio recordings of the closed meeting and contributed $19,000 toward the media's legal fees.
A union of state, county and municipal employees filed a lawsuit against the University of California demanding access to public records on how the university spends money. The case was filed after an October 2008 open records request to the university was not complied with although a UC representative said that she believes "we responded appropriately to the request". Several campuses in the UC system have not complied because they want the union to pay for staff time to pull the requested information despite the law allowing only for duplication costs. With UC moving to cut employee pay, the union wants to see financial records detailing university spending.
With these court findings, perhaps the Georgia courts will finally force the University of Georgia and Allergan to release records of their secret meetings that lost UGA and Georgia's taxpayers approximately $220 million. Allergan has maneuvered to keep even the court records sealed related to inventor Dr. Renee Kaswan's lawsuit against the pharma giant and UGA. But where is the media outrage that UGA has never released the records of these meetings that led to this appalling loss?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Atlanta Business Chronicle, UGA's The Red and Black, Georgia's Neighbor Newspapers as well as the local TV and other media outlets ought to unite and demand release of all transcripts of the illegal secret meetings. The decisions made there cost the university dearly and should be exposed in their entirety to public scrutiny in accordance with Georgia law.
When public institutions that operate through use of public funds are not held accountable to the taxpayers that finance them, they can act with impunity and we will all suffer. This has been the case with UGA and its Board of Regents who condoned the illegal negotiations by its administrators that betrayed the wellbeing of Georgia taxpayers and the University in favor of the interests of a publicly held company operating solely for the profit of its shareholders.
Dr. Renee Kaswan, inventor of Restasis® and founder of IP Advocate continues to hope that UGA will comply with Open Records/Meetings Laws and release the minutes of the meetings where her sight-saving invention was squandered. In a recent interview Dr. Kaswan said, "Even the best schools rely upon the personal professionalism of the present personnel but have IP Policies that give sole discretion and total authority to the university administration, with no accountability to anyone, particularly faculty inventors. Inventors, universities, and industry need to be able to work together for mutual benefit, with rules that protect the long term academic and public welfare."