CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — University of Wyoming lawyers have requested multiple changes to the state's public records law after losing a legal effort to shield the circumstances surrounding the demotion of the university's former president last year.
The university counsel is seeking to implement a number of exemptions to the law, including better language defining what qualifies as a personnel file, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
“The University is not advocating for more or less transparency,” general counsel Tara Evans said in a memo. “But we are advocating for more clarity in the language of the exemptions to allow public records officers to more efficiently and effectively respond to requests for public documents with less ambiguity and without the need for interpretation.”
The memo also requests clarification on what is determined as a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the law.
The memo by the university's legal counsel to the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee in May was made public ahead of a committee meeting this week.
The memo came after the university's administration was ordered to release records, including a personnel file of its former President Laurie Nichols, after several news outlets including the Star-Tribune filed a lawsuit amid her sudden demotion.
“In practicality, if the personnel files exception were to be interpreted without limiting its application to documents implicating a personal privacy interest, the state government and its agencies would have the unfettered ability to withhold almost any document from inspection simply by placing it within an employee’s personnel file,” Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken said in the ruling.
Evans argued that the university often deals with records requests that can involve the handling of highly sensitive subject matter.
No action was taken at the Wednesday meeting. Republican and committee co-chair Sen. Tara Nethercott said the issue of personnel files would likely be taken up at the committee’s August meeting.