UW likely to appeal judge order
The University of Wyoming will likely appeal a Friday ruling regarding a judge's order to obtain records pertaining to Laurie Nichols' employment with the school.
January 07, 2020
The University of Wyoming will likely appeal a Friday ruling in which a group of Wyoming news organizations largely prevailed over the school in a nearly yearlong effort to obtain records related to UW’s decision not to renew former president Laurie Nichols’ contract.
“The board has not made a final decision on whether it will appeal, but that is the intent at this point,” UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said Monday in an email. “That’s all I can say right now.”
Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken ruled Friday that the vast majority of the records sought by the Star-Tribune and WyoFile should be released, albeit with redactions. Those documents had been withheld after repeated requests by WyoFile and the Star-Tribune dating back to April, just after Nichols was told she wouldn’t continue. The news outlets had contended in their lawsuit that those records had been improperly withheld.
The judge also ordered that 18 documents that can be withheld should be described in a detailed log, so the outlets can better understand what the documents are and why they’re not being released. The university had previously argued that it didn’t have to release such a log.
The lawsuit, filed by the Star-Tribune, WyoFile, the Laramie Boomerang and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, sought to shake loose records related to UW’s decision not to renew Nichols’ contract, a decision announced in a vague press release in late March. No explanation has yet been provided for that decision, though WyoFile and the Star-Tribune reported in September that it came just days after a quiet investigation into Nichols was completed by an outside law firm.
The Friday order would’ve forced the release of the documents in a matter of weeks. But in a conference call to attorneys Friday afternoon, Kricken said that the records would continue to be confidential until the University of Wyoming and Nichols can appeal. The former president joined the lawsuit in October and largely joined forces with the university to block the release of the records.
The university is likely to do just that. In an email, university attorney Robert Jarosh confirmed that the board “has not yet made a final decision about an appeal.”
Messages seeking comment from Nichols’ attorney and from UW’s board chairman were not returned Monday. When the board will make a decision is unclear; the trustees have a meeting scheduled for Jan. 22, though no agenda had been published as of Monday.
In an interview with South Dakota Public Broadcasting on Monday, Nichols called the lawsuit “an interesting situation.” She steered clear of opining on the litigation and said that UW has 30 days to appeal.