UPDATED: WKU found in violation of Kentucky Open Records Act

UPDATED%3A+WKU+found+in+violation+of+Kentucky+Open+Records+Act

Jake Moore, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include an unredacted version of the records requested by the Herald.

Western Kentucky University has been found in violation of Kentucky’s Open Records Act after redacting information from Shaquille O’Neal’s “DJ Diesel” performance contract obtained by the Herald in a public records request.

According to an open records decision delivered by Attorney General Daniel Cameron on Wednesday, WKU failed to cite an exception to the Open Records Act and “explain how it applied to the record withheld.”

The Herald had requested access to all contracts between WKU and “any and all agencies” representing Shaquille O’Neal, also known as “DJ Diesel,” who performed on campus on Oct. 21. According to the received records,WKU paid $130,000 to Mine O Mine Holdings Inc,a company owned by O’Neal, for the performance.

The publication also received O’Neal’s personal appearance contract for the event, but the “hospitality rider” section of the contract was fully redacted. 

Following Cameron’s decision, the Herald filed another request for the contract and received a copy that did not redact the hospitality rider. The contract can be read in full here, with the hospitality rider located on page 16.

According to the rider some of the items the purchaser, who is identified as WKU, had to agree to provide include: two bottles of Don Julio 1942 tequila, four bottles of Grey Goose vodka, two bottles of Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne, 24 cans of either Corona or Pacifico, 12 cans of sugar free Red Bull, six cans each of coconut water, yellow gatorade and sprite, 48 bottles of Fiji water – half cold, half room temperature – a presidential suite hotel room, seven king hotel rooms, a “meal buyout” of $400 and four fresh Papa John’s pizzas “waiting in the dressing room.”

When the redacted contract was first received, the Herald was told by Lindsey Carter, assistant general counsel, that the information is “considered proprietary and is redacted pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(c).” The Herald filed an open records appeal to Cameron’s office on Nov. 8.

Cameron’s decision states that, under KRS 61.880(1), an agency’s explanation of why a record was withheld must “provide particular and detailed information.”

“Because the University merely stated that the information was ‘considered proprietary’ without explanation, the University violated the Act,” the decision reads.

WKU’s response to the Herald’s appeal stated that the information contained in the redacted hospitality rider relates to “artist preference for specific products, transportation and accommodation which contain actual or anticipated business relationships,” and “upon information and belief” is generally recognized as confidential in the entertainment industry.

Cameron’s decision states that this “information and belief” is based on representation given to WKU by Wasserman Music/Mine o’Mine Holdings, the organizations behind O’Neal’s contract. According to the decision, in order to “sustain its denial under KRS 61.878(1)(c)1,” WKU must first prove the hospitality rider was “confidentially disclosed to it.”

“The University merely states the private entity requested it to redact the Hospitality Rider after receiving notification of the Appellant’s request,” the decision states. “This, without more, is insufficient to show that the information was ‘confidentially disclosed’ to the University.”

Cameron’s decision goes on to list items generally recognized as confidential, such as “private financial affairs,” “trade secrets, investment strategies, economic status, or business structures” and “the method for determining (a) contract price.” The decision notes that the common factor among these items is the “insight they provide into the internal operations of the entity making the disclosure to the public agency.”

According to the decision, WKU must show that disclosure of the hospitality rider would “permit an unfair commercial advantage to competitors of the entity that disclosed it.” The decision states that the university “has not even alleged this to be the case.”

“A ‘bare statement that [a private entity has] asked the [agency] to treat … records as confidential’ is insufficient to sustain a denial under KRS 61.878(1)(c)1,” the decision states. “Accordingly, the University has failed to meet its burden of proof that the Hospitality Rider is exempt from disclosure. Thus, the University violated the Act when it redacted the Hospitality Rider from the contract.”

Co-Editor-in-Chief Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.