UK allows reporter to attend briefings for trustees

lblackford@herald-leader.comSeptember 2, 2014 

Aerial - University of Kentucky Construction

Aerial photo of the University of Kentucky campus taken on Feb. 12, 2013.

FARON COLLINS

The number of meals served to University of Kentucky students on the first day of classes increased 30 percent over last year under a new food services contract with Aramark, a group of University of Kentucky trustees were told Tuesday.

The trustees were updated on housing and dining facilities on campus as part of a briefing that UK officials have for years provided to small groups of trustees prior to regular board meetings. The public is not invited to the briefings, raising questions about the legality of the meetings under the Kentucky Open Meetings Act.

After a Herald-Leader article in June about the closed-door meetings, the newspaper asked UK last week to open the briefings held before a meeting of the full board Friday. UK agreed to allow a Herald-Leader reporter to attend three briefings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, although it didn't make the meeting open to the public or acknowledge that the meetings should be public in the future.

Kentucky's open meetings law specifically forbids the discussion of public business in a series of small private meetings that collectively involve a quorum of the body.

"What you cannot do is have a series of meetings involving a quorum, at which a discussion of the entire issue is closed to the public," Louisville attorney Jon Fleischaker, an open meetings expert who advises the Kentucky Press Association, told the Herald-Leader in June.

Six trustees — Robert Grossman, Bill Britton, Barbara Young, Angela Edwards, Robert Vance and Terry Mobley —attended Tuesday's briefing at UK's Main Building with UK President Eli Capilouto, Eric Monday, executive vice-president for finance and administration and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart.

Monday said that because the board doesn't meet during the summer, officials wanted to review more than $1.2 billion of construction on campus, including recently opened residence halls, plans for new dining facilities, a student center and a new academic science center.

Most of the projects have already been approved by trustees, but they asked several questions about small details of the plans and some of the financing.

Monday said students had flocked to new dining facilities, such as a Greens to Go in the student center and a new Einstein's Bagels in the Chemistry-Physics Building.

A larger than expected freshman class — more than 5,000 students — has resulted in more congestion, so Monday said UK is giving any student who doesn't apply for a parking pass the use of a bicycle.

Barnhart spoke of tweaks to the renovation of Commonwealth Stadium, including a separate financing plan for the artificial turf.

"We have a lot going on here," President Eli Capilouto said at the end of the briefing. "We're pleased with our progress ... we're not all the way there, but the investments all centered around student success will pay high dividends."

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford

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