Marshall University, president sued for not honoring FOIA requests

By Kyla Asbury | Jun 19, 2013

HUNTINGTON - Marshall University and President Stephen J. Kopp are being sued for failing to honor multiple Freedom of Information Act requests.

The petitioners include American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia; AFL-CIO; Christine Campbell, the president; and Drs. Dallas Brozik and James Sottile, members.

On April 19, Brozik orally made a Freedom of Information Act request to Marshall and Kopp seeking detailed budget information, including line item information for various units in the university, according to a complaint filed June 7 in Cabell Circuit Court.

Brozik claims on May 3, he followed up his initial oral FOIA request in writing and added a request for the same information requested orally for the previous four years.

On May 10, counsel for Marshall and Kopp replied to the May 3 request and stated that the FOIA request was not made with "reasonable specificity," according to the suit.

Brozik claims on May 10, he submitted an additional FOIA request requesting all of the budget information for all of the university and all of the athletic programs for the last five years.

On May 17, counsel for Marshall and Kopp responded to the May 10 FOIA request and stated again that the request was not made with reasonable specificity. However, counsel provided an estimated cost of $54,296 to produce the documents requested and included in the cost was $9,296 for expenses unrelated to the cost of the copies, according to the suit.

Brozik claims on May 21, he revised the FOIA request to all budget information for the last three fiscal years and on May 20, counsel for Marshall and Kopp gave him the same excuse and provided an estimate of $32,150, including $5,150 for expenses unrelated to the copies.

On May 8, Sottile made a written FOIA request to Kopp, requesting information for expenditure by the department/division level for all the colleges, the administration and the athletic department for the last five years, according to the suit.

Sottile claims Kopp's counsel gave him the same excuse as Brozik received and gave him estimates for the documents in the amount of $54,296.

The petitioners claim the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act.

"Since it is clear on the merits that the Respondents have failed to follow the law and, in effect, by their actions, have frustrated the intent of the law, the Petitioners will likely prevail on the merits," the complaint states.

The petitioners are seeking an injunction issued, requiring Marshall and Kopp to disclose and allow the petitioners to inspect any documentation in its custody relating to the various requests under FOIA and that the respondents be ordered to remove all charges not directly related to the copying of the requested documents. They are being represented by Mark W. Carbone and Jeffrey G. Blaydes of Carbone & Blaydes PLLC.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge David M. Pancake.

Cabell Circuit Court case number: 13-C-400

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