MORGANTOWN – The Teamsters have filed two FOIA lawsuits over a West Virginia University study about the state Legislature’s right-to-work bill.

In one suit, filed Feb. 16 in Monongalia Circuit Court, the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the WVU Board of Governors for access to unredacted copies of email exchanges about the study. In the other lawsuit, filed Feb. 10, the Teamsters sued the state Senate and Senate President Bill Cole.

In the complaint against Cole and the Senate, the Teamsters claim they filed a FOIA request with the Senate on Jan. 21 for the emails. But they say the Senate didn’t provide the materials. But on Feb. 11, the state Senate did provide that information to the Teamsters, according to a spokeswoman for Cole.

The legislation at the heart of the matter is Senate Bill 1, also known as the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act. On Feb. 12, the state Senate and House of Delegates overrode a gubernatorial veto of the bill.

Cole (R-Mercer) and House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) had requested the study, which was written by John Deskins, director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The BBER received $34,000 for the study, according to the complaint.

In a press release before the suits were filed, the Teamsters said they questioned the motivations for the study because Cole, who also is running for governor, and Armstead had openly promoted the legislation.

“The people of West Virginia have the right to know what their legislators are hiding,” said Ken Hall, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer and President of Teamsters Local 175 in South Charleston “Why won’t Senate leadership turn over these emails?

“The people of West Virginia deserve to know about communications between our flagship public university and elected political leaders.”

Monongalia Circuit Court case number 16-C-97 (WVU BOG)

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