The University of Kentucky has twice violated the state's open-records law since 2014, according to opinions released Monday by the Kentucky attorney general's office.
In the first case, UK denied an August 2014 request by a researcher with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for copies of "approved protocols for the use of animals in teaching exercises."
UK denied the information on the grounds that releasing details of the protocols "jeopardizes the safety of researchers" by identifying them and describing activities that might "incite harassment of or violence against" those researchers. UK lawyers also argued the information was proprietary and might harm UK's pursuit of competitive grants.
However, the attorney general's office said much of the disputed information can be found on UK's website.
"Against this weakened privacy interest, we weigh the substantiated public interest in the oversight of a publicly-funded university's administration and operation and ensuring compliance with federal law," the opinion says. The privacy interest of faculty and staff "must yield to the public's interest in disclosure."
The opinion, which carries the weight of law unless appealed in Fayette Circuit Court, ruled that UK can redact personal information from the documents, but otherwise must release the protocols.
Samantha Suiter, PETA's science education specialist, said her group was pleased with the decision.
"The public has a right to know if UK is killing and maiming animals when educationally superior teaching methods, such as computer simulations, can be used," she said.
Suiter said the protocols will reveal the types and quantities of animals used in UK classrooms, as well as whether they are harmed or killed.
When asked for comment about the attorney general's rulings, a UK spokeswoman said the general counsel's office is "evaluating next steps."
In the second case, attorney Mark Guilfoyle requested information in March from the Kentucky Cancer Registry, which is housed at UK's Markey Cancer Center, about Lourdes Hospital in Paducah. Guilfoyle was seeking information about potential problems with Lourdes Hospital's reporting of cancer statistics.
Under state law, any facility that provides cancer treatments must report each case to the Kentucky Cancer Registry or face fines for not doing so.
Guilfoyle specifically requested correspondence between the cancer registry and Lourdes.
UK denied the request, saying the correspondence was protected from disclosure by state law.
The attorney general's office disagreed.
Although the legislature made it more difficult to access patient statistics from the Kentucky Cancer Registry in 2012, the amendment did not extend to correspondence between the registry and hospitals regarding compliance.
Guilfoyle said he was pleased by the opinion.
"I have the highest regard for the Kentucky Cancer Registry," he said. "But I'm really puzzled why the Kentucky Registry would not want to produce documents to show a certain hospital to be out of compliance with the state reporting requirements."