Saturday was one of those almost but not quite days for the Campbell County boys soccer team. Top-ranked and consensus favorite to win the Class 4A state soccer tournament, the Camels fell just …
CHEYENNE — Several media outlets have filed a lawsuit challenging the secret search for a new president of the University of Wyoming, arguing that the public has the right to know the finalists for the high-profile job leading the state’s only four-year public university.
The Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming Tribune Eagle and The Associated Press filed the lawsuit Monday in state District Court in Laramie.
UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said he could not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit because no one had a chance to see it Monday.
But Baldwin reiterated that the UW board of trustees decided to conduct a confidential search in order to attract candidates who might not apply for the job if their names were made public, and “we believe it is fully in compliance with state law.”
The trustees will have to file a response to the lawsuit next month.
Bruce Moats, a Cheyenne attorney representing the media outlets, said it is critical that the lawsuit be addressed quickly because of the timeline the trustees have established for finding a replacement for President Tom Buchanan, who announced in September that he would retire next year.
“One of the reasons we’re filing it now was in the hope that we could have the matter resolved before they name their second set of finalists,” Moats said.
Under the process the board has adopted, search committees would narrow the list of candidates to 12 by about Dec. 10 and then to five finalists by the end of January. The trustees would then choose the new president in February. The public would not hear any names until the board announced the new president.
The lawsuit contends that the public’s right to know the finalists is “fundamental to the democratic process.”
“There is no compelling interest for keeping that information secret,” it says. “To the contrary, it is the public that has a compelling interest in knowing the persons seeking offices of public trust.”
Moats said the UW trustees were reading the state open records law “broadly in favor of secrecy, which is not what the Wyoming Supreme Court has directed us to do.”
UW last went through a president search in 2005-06 after Philip Dubois resigned to become chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
The search turned into a fiasco when it became known that Buchanan, who was serving as interim president at the time, wasn’t among the finalists being considered. After faculty petitioned to have Buchanan’s name placed on the finalist list, the trustees added his name for consideration. The other three finalists then dropped out, leaving only Buchanan.