WVSU Violates Freedom Of Information Act – Again

Campus Police Refuses To Take Action

While West Virginia State University is suing chemical companies because they “refuse to do the right thing” and clean up,

Joe Saunders

allegedly, contaminated ground water, the university continues its violation of West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, (Code 29b) and the campus police and the West Virginia State Police are refusing to take action against the university for the misdemeanor.

On Monday, May 1st, 2017, PutnamCountyNews.com filed the above Freedom of Information Act request to “inspect” all documents related to the lawsuit. The university had five business days to provide the documents for inspection. As a courtesy, we also advised Tom Bennett and Kimberly Osborne, two vice presidents, in advance of the filing so that they could start gathering the documents. PutnamCountyNews.com wanted to know who knew what about the reportedly four-year-old problem and when they knew, after newly-inaugurated President Anthony Jenkins announced, at an April 27th, 2017 news conference that the university held the information while investigating. PutnamCountyNews.com sees this as a breach of public trust.

The breach continued, because, at 4:49 p.m., on Friday, May 5th, 2017, Osborne sent PutnamCountyNews the above email advising us that we had to pay $1 per page for copies, or $10 for a CD with the documents.

There are some problems with Osborne’s demand for payment: 1) PutnamCountyNews.com never ordered copies. It was our intention to make copies of our own (allowed by the FOIA law) when the documents are inspected. 2) The above section of Code 29b states that government agencies can only charge for the “actual cost of reproducing” documents. Copies are made, around the valley, for .15-.25 cents, making it obvious that WVSU’s attempt to charge $1 per page is illegal. 

Additionally, as you can see from the above screen shot, WVSU can buy 10 CDs at Walmart for less than $5, so the university’s attempt to bilk PutnamCountyNews.com out of $10 for a single CD is outrageous.

“Charging $1 to duplicate a piece of paper that, at most, costs $.02 is a 4,900 percent markup,” says WVSU graduate J. Lawrence Smith. “If I recall correctly, Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ markup on the EpiPen was only 600 percent.  Kimberly Osborne makes Heather Manchin Bresch look like Hettie Green by comparison.”

Nevertheless, when WVSU made copying the documents a major hassle, PutnamCountyNews.com paid the $10 – under objection.

Then, we repeatedly billed the university, which is being ignored.

“We aren’t going to pay it,” says Tom Bennett. “Do what you have to do.”

University Chief of Police “Joe” Saunders criticized PutnamCountyNews.com for asking President Jenkins why the university violates FOIA law.

This is not the first time Osborne refused to cooperate with Putnam County’s News Leader. In 2016, she stated that “The university does not recognize your website as bonafide working press.” PutnamCountyNews.com does not recognize Osborne as having the qualifications and experience to know what constitutes “bonafide working press.” 

Regardless of whether PutnamCountyNews.com is recognized by an educational institution’s “PR Hack,” a Freedom of Information Act request can be filed by anyone. Violating Code 29b is a misdemeanor. (1=6) When the West Virginia State Police returned our call, we were told it is a “civil court” issue. However, as the above screen shot shows, violating the Freedom of Information Act is a misdemeanor.

Why won’t law enforcement prosecute WVSU? Saunders is employed by the university. Obviously, arresting a vice president will endanger his job. However, the West Virginia State Police should enforce the Freedom of Information Act.

In a letter by Jenkins, who inherited this mess, he claims to be committed to “being transparent.” PutnamCountyNews.com is inviting Jenkins to prove that commitment to transparency.