Judge rules UM System violated Sunshine Law in animal rights group's suit

1 month 5 days 2 hours ago Friday, November 08 2019 Nov 8, 2019 Friday, November 08, 2019 7:52:27 PM CST November 08, 2019 in News
By: Columbia Missourian Staff

COLUMBIA - MU knowingly violated the Missouri Sunshine Law by overestimating the cost of providing records to an animal rights group, a Boone County Judge ruled Friday.

After it was told a records request would cost over $82,000, Animal Rescue, Media & Education, also known as the Beagle Freedom Project, sued the university and the UM System records custodian, Paula Barrett, in May 2016. The group wanted documents for 179 dogs and cats used in MU research, experiments and testing.

"After hearing the evidence, the Court finds that there is nothing so complex, unique or burdensome about the information sought that would require a requestor to pay in excess of $450 just to get the records for a single dog or cat," Boone County Judge Jeff Harris wrote in his ruling.

To retrieve the records, MU assumed it would use well-paid veterinarians or PhDs who earned annual salaries ranging from $109,000 to $211,000, Harris wrote. In some cases, the rate for retrieving the records was over $100 an hour.

This decision was not justified and increased costs unnecessarily, Harris wrote. This Sunshine Law requires that public agencies use employees who can gather records at the lowest cost. 

Harris also wrote that assuming it would take over 500 hours to gather the records was unreasonable.

"There was no evidence adduced at trial to suggest that it was reasonable for a principal investigator to take as long as five hours to find the records for a single dog or cat," he wrote.

In June, Barrett sent a letter to the Beagle Freedom Project with a lower bill of $8,950, more than three years after the lawsuit was filed. The suit went to trial in July.

MU issued a statement Friday in response to the ruling:

"The University of Missouri is committed to being transparent and in compliance of the law. We respond to nearly 700 Sunshine requests per year and devote significant resources to live up to the requirements of the Sunshine Law. We respectfully disagree that the University violated those requirements."

The statement also said the university was reviewing the decision and would determine its options.

The lawsuit stemmed from a campaign launched by the Beagle Freedom Project in March 2015 that aimed to identify dogs and cats that were used in research. Labelled an "Identity Campaign," it was intended to locate animals for potential adoption and raise public awareness about their use in research, according to previous Missourian reporting.

As part of the campaign, the project filed similar open records requests at multiple public universities. Most cooperated in responding to the requests, and some provided records at little or no cost, Harris wrote in his ruling.

More News

Grid
List
With the holiday season here, the Community Foundation of Central Missouri is spearheading a donation initiative through a website called... More >>
13 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 6:59:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in Top Stories
HOLTS SUMMIT - Joe Baker has portrayed the role of Santa Claus in mid-Missouri for the last 30 years. ... More >>
13 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 6:46:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - The Boone County Sheriff's Department completed a week-long training program on Friday, cumulating with a role-playing exercise to... More >>
15 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 5:05:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in News
MID-MISSOURI - A winter storm is expected to bring snow and ice accumulation to Missouri followed by frigid temperatures. This... More >>
16 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 4:22:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in Weather
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Fire Department has a new chief. City Manager John Glascock says Andy Woody will be taking... More >>
16 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 3:50:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Former Missouri football coach Barry Odom is heading to Arkansas. New Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman confirmed... More >>
17 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 3:19:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – Columbia psychologist, Kurt Bumby, 50, is charged with two counts of statutory sodomy in Boone County and two... More >>
17 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 3:18:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in News
FULTON - Although legally blind, Fulton Special Olympics tennis player Jesse competes with enthusiasm in a high demanding sport for... More >>
18 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 2:21:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A proposed plan to expand the Jefferson City National Cemetery across the street and move a park... More >>
18 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 2:15:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in News
BOONVILLE - Shovels and salt will likely be in higher demand at local hardware stores after a forecasted weekend snow... More >>
19 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 12:55:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in News
WENTZVILLE, Mo. (AP) — General Motors plans to invest $1.5 billion in truck production at a suburban St. Louis plant.... More >>
20 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 12:24:00 PM CST December 13, 2019 in News
CAMDEN COUNTY- A 71-year-old woman was killed last night after her car struck a tree, according to the Missouri State... More >>
20 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 11:35:00 AM CST December 13, 2019 in News
COOPER COUNTY - A company from Illinois was brought in for the continued search for the body of Mengqi Ji... More >>
21 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 11:11:00 AM CST December 13, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA- Columbia police arrested one man Thursday in connection with the December 9 homicide at Welcome Inn. According to... More >>
22 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 9:51:00 AM CST December 13, 2019 in News
WASHINGTON, D.C.- The House Judiciary Committee has approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. The charges now go... More >>
23 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 9:27:00 AM CST December 13, 2019 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - The magic tree is a bit more magical on Friday. The Columbia tradition is being tailor-made for... More >>
1 day ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 3:50:00 AM CST December 13, 2019 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - School and city officials predict upwards of 10,000 people will visit Columbia this weekend for graduation ceremonies at... More >>
1 day ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 3:27:00 AM CST December 13, 2019 in News
COOPER COUNTY - Crews searching for missing woman Mengqi Ji Elledge have cleared debris obstructing the search area and have... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, December 12 2019 Dec 12, 2019 Thursday, December 12, 2019 7:28:00 PM CST December 12, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 32°
9am 33°
10am 32°
11am 33°
12pm 34°