Fmr. University Of Idaho Professor's Records To Be Release - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Fmr. University Of Idaho Professor's Records To Be Release

UPDATE: A Latah County judge ruled that the University of Idaho can release personnel records of former professor Ernesto Bustamante. The judge says Bustamante sacrificed his right to privacy by becoming a public official and that the public's right to know out weighs privacy laws. An attorney for the U of I says there are over 70,000 emails the university will be releasing to the Moscow Police Department and then the media.

UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO STATEMENT:

MOSCOW, Idaho – Today, Latah County District Judge John Stegner declared that the mandatory confidentiality of public employee personnel records ends with the death of the individual.

Stegner's ruling came after hearing arguments from the University of Idaho and media outlet attorneys in the case involving now-deceased former University of Idaho professor Ernesto Bustamante.

"The University of Idaho is pleased with the court's ruling today," said Kent Nelson, University of Idaho general counsel. "This provides us with what we sought: a clear path forward. It has always been the university's intention to be as open and transparent as the law allows in this matter."

In his prepared remarks before the court, Nelson acknowledged the "truly tragic" facts surrounding the deaths of graduate student Katy Benoit and Bustamante. "[Lives] … are forever changed. The entire university community grieves for this," he said.

The central issue for the university, said Nelson, is whether mandatory confidentiality required by the Idaho public records law applies to the personnel records of a former employee who is now deceased.

According to Nelson, the university is currently complying with a search warrant from the district court as the law enforcement investigation into the deaths continues. Under the warrant, the institution is gathering and turning over university documents related to Bustamante and Benoit.

Many of the records are electronic, including emails, that number "in the tens of thousands," said Nelson.

As the university makes this material available to law enforcement officials, it is making copies of the records in response to public records requests from media outlets. The timeline for releasing documents and the extent of the documents is still being discussed with counsel for the media outlets.

Nelson cautioned, however, that the Idaho public records law still applies to the records of living university employees, as well as to sensitive information such as financial, student educational records, medical and social security information.

Nelson expressed the university's appreciation to Stegner for expediting the proceedings. He also thanked the attorneys representing the media outlets for their timely responsiveness to the case.

 

***************************************************************************

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) - Attorneys for the University of Idaho and media outlets are seeking a judge's decision on whether the school should make public the personnel records of a former psychology professor who committed suicide after shooting and killing a graduate student who had ended her sexual relationship with him.

The Lewiston Tribune reports 2nd District Judge John R. Stegner is scheduled to hear oral arguments Monday afternoon in Latah County.

Idaho public records law says the records of government officials should be generally accessible to the public, with exceptions made for private personnel files. The university is asking Stegner to decide if that exception extends beyond the official's death.

Former professor Ernesto Bustamante killed Katy Benoit at her residence on Aug. 22 and he was found dead the next day.
   

      
      (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
   

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