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Paper sues university for violating state records law

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  1. Freedom of Information
The Pittsburg Post-Gazette filed a lawsuit Tuesday against West Virginia University, contending the school violated the state records law by…

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette filed a lawsuit Tuesday against West Virginia University, contending the school violated the state records law by denying the paper’s three document requests.

The suit, filed in West Virginia Circuit Court of Monongalia County, comes almost 30 days after the Post-Gazette sent a complaint to the university and state attorney general, notifying them of its intent to sue.

“It’s the role of the newspaper to shine the light of day on a subject and to see it’s investigated,” said Nanya Friend, editor and publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail and board member of the West Virginia Press Association. “And if something was improper, to see something gets changed.”

The requests, one submitted in late December and the other two in mid-January, are related to the school’s decision last fall to retroactively award a master’s of business administration degree to the daughter of West Virginia’s governor. Among the documents the paper said were illegally withheld include university President Michael Garrison’s e-mail, cell phone and landline records.

The Daily Mail has published several editorials and stories on this issue in addition to the Post-Gazette’s coverage, in hopes that it will draw attention to the importance of finding out more details, Friend said.

“I admire the way [the Post-Gazette has] pursued a lot of angles and tried to get at the truth of the matter, and that’s what they’re continuing to do,” she said. “If it’s deemed to be public, they should go after it and find out what the facts are of this case.”