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

1 month 6 hours 24 minutes 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
BOONEVILLE - The Cooper County Sheriff's Office is asking travelers to find an alternate route on Highway 41 going to... More >>
2 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 3:02:00 PM CST December 06, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Former Columbia police chief Ken Burton has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after originally being charged with driving... More >>
2 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 2:45:00 PM CST December 06, 2019 in News
HALLSVILLE - Kari Hallowell, the mother of 17-year-old Hayden Holt, who died in an overnight car crash after being chased... More >>
2 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 2:04:00 PM CST December 06, 2019 in News
PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP)- Two U.S. officials have identified the shooter at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola as a second... More >>
2 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 1:53:00 PM CST December 06, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - This weekend, 47 high school basketball teams from five states will go head-to-head in the 2019 Norm Stewart... More >>
2 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 1:24:00 PM CST December 06, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA- Former MU Quarterback Drew Lock is set to make his second start with the Denver Broncos this Sunday versus... More >>
3 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 12:28:00 PM CST December 06, 2019 in Sports
BOONE COUNTY- A 52-year-old male suffered two gunshot wounds Thursday night after getting into a fight with two people at... More >>
3 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 10:53:00 AM CST December 06, 2019 in News
RICH HILL- Relatives of a missing Missouri mother say they are growing increasingly concerned after deputies found the woman's phone,... More >>
3 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 10:22:00 AM CST December 06, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed Hayden Holt, a 17-year-old from Hallsville, died in an overnight car crash... More >>
3 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 6:41:00 AM CST December 06, 2019 in News
MARSHALL - Police arrested a man Thursday after they said he tried to rob a loan office. Employees of... More >>
3 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 4:23:00 AM CST December 06, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Soon, every fifth grader in Boone County will have the opportunity to learn math, history, language arts and... More >>
3 days ago Friday, December 06 2019 Dec 6, 2019 Friday, December 06, 2019 3:44:00 AM CST December 06, 2019 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - Last winter saw major snow storms, ice, and extreme cold. This winter could see similar systems, however, the... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, December 05 2019 Dec 5, 2019 Thursday, December 05, 2019 9:00:00 PM CST December 05, 2019 in Weather
COLUMBIA - Winter weather is often attacked in an attempt to prove climate change and global warming are not real.... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, December 05 2019 Dec 5, 2019 Thursday, December 05, 2019 8:25:00 PM CST December 05, 2019 in Weather
COLUMBIA - While most of us use the weather forecast in order to plan our own day, some people need... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, December 05 2019 Dec 5, 2019 Thursday, December 05, 2019 7:56:00 PM CST December 05, 2019 in Weather
COLUMBIA - Another recreational complex is coming to Mid-Missouri. The City of Columbia and officials from Boone County announced... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, December 05 2019 Dec 5, 2019 Thursday, December 05, 2019 6:38:00 PM CST December 05, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY - Three men were charged on Thursday for being involved in a drug-trafficking conspiracy after federal agents seized... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, December 05 2019 Dec 5, 2019 Thursday, December 05, 2019 4:32:00 PM CST December 05, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A marijuana advocacy group said people who have legal medical marijuana licenses are still being arrested. In... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, December 05 2019 Dec 5, 2019 Thursday, December 05, 2019 4:28:00 PM CST December 05, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Jefferson City Public School nurses could be getting a new medication to add to their medicine cabinets... More >>
3 days ago Thursday, December 05 2019 Dec 5, 2019 Thursday, December 05, 2019 2:42:00 PM CST December 05, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 49°
1pm 48°
2pm 44°
3pm 39°
4pm 37°