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Media sue after regents interview presidential candidates in private

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    NMU         MINNESOTA         Freedom of Information         Nov 12, 2002    

Media sue after regents interview presidential candidates in private

  • Three newspapers filed suit Nov. 8 after the University of Minnesota suspended its own open meetings law in hopes of choosing the best candidate for university president.

Twin Cities-based newspapers the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Daily have vowed to sue over the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regent’s recent decision to privately interview candidates for university president.

The Board of Regents announced Nov. 4 that it would meet in private with candidates applying for university president. In doing so, the Board suspended the university’s own bylaws which require meetings for finalists to be held openly.

“The primary job of the Board of Regents is to hire the best president it can,” said Maureen Reed, board chairwoman, who insists that keeping this process public would hamper the hiring process. “We wanted to move forward with our search process but doing so in public would mean some of those candidates would no longer want to be interviewed.”

University officials claim that because the school is not a state agency and is considered an autonomous body under the state constitution, it can suspend its own open meetings requirements.

But critics say that the board acted illegally.

“The Board of Regents and their prima donna applicants did not want to participate in a public interview process because if they were not chosen they would have to go back as losers to their original universities,” said Paul Hannah, a St. Paul attorney who is representing the newspapers.

“Minnesota law is fairly clear, it says that if you are interviewing a finalist, and he is interviewed by the entire board, then this should be done in an open meeting,” Hannah added.

(Star Tribune v. Regents of the University of Minnesota; Media counsel: Paul Hannah, Hannah & Jasperson, St. Paul, Minn.) GS

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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