University of Delaware FOIA Denial Re: San Diego State Professor Could Be A Game-Changer

A Freedom of Information Act denial by the University of Delaware could actually change the way they are exempt from FOIA requests. Stemming from a case with a San Diego State professor named Vincent Martin, NBC San Diego sought information from University of Delaware, where Martin taught when he left in 2011. He went to San Diego State where the professor was accused of sexual harassment by several students. He was immediately suspended, and Martin tried to fight it. Meanwhile, NBC’s FOIA request from University of Delaware failed to give the information that eventually came out during Martin’s arbitration last week. Martin was terminated from University of Delaware over sexual harassment issues back in 2011…

I first heard about this story on the Rick Jensen show this afternoon on WDEL. When I arrived home, the below email chain was sent to me by State Rep. John Kowalko. No college or university should be exempt from FOIA if they receive that much funding from state taxpayers. Please, General Assembly, pass House Bill 42. The below story is exactly why these special “exemptions” can be abused by those in power.


From: Lori Hill [mailto:lhill@udel.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 10:27 AM
To: Krueger, Paul (NBCUniversal, KNSD)
Cc: Andrea Boyle; Lawrence White
Subject: Delaware FOIA re: former UD professor Vincent Martin

Dear Mr. Krueger:

Thank you for your email dated May 20, 2015.  Your request under Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act has been referred to me, and it is my privilege to respond on behalf of the University of Delaware. Your request relates to documents and information relating to Professor Vincent Martin and his departure from the University of Delaware.  

Our State’s Freedom of Information Act exempts the University of Delaware from statutory coverage except in certain limited respects. The University is covered by the Freedom of Information Act only to the extent that requests relate to “the expenditure of public funds . . . .”  §10002(i).  Public funds are “those funds derived from the State or any political subdivision of the State.” §10002(k). Because the information you seek does not relate to the expenditure of public funds, the University respectfully declines your records request.

Again, thank you for writing.

Lori Hill

——

Lori Hill

Business Administrator

Certified Paralegal

University of Delaware

Office of General Counsel

112 Hullihen Hall

Newark, DE  19716

(302) 831-7366


Editor’s note: on the below email, the University of Delaware responded to questions from KNSD where I have highlighted them in red.


On Wed, Jun 10, 2015 at 6:50 PM, Krueger, Paul (NBCUniversal, KNSD) <Paul.Krueger@nbcuni.com> wrote:

Ms. Hill,

Thanks much for your response.

Can you please help me with these follow-up questions:

Again citing the Delaware Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting information about the annual salary and cost of benefits and any other payments and/or compensation paid to Vincent Martin during his tenure at the University of Delaware. Please provide me with a yearly break-down of those payments for the years in which Professor Martin was associated with and/or employed by, the University of Delaware. I am also requesting information about any payments made on his, and/or the University’s behalf to any third parties (including, but not limited to, students, faculty and staff and campus visitors) who complained about and/or filed any claims and/or lawsuits or legal action of any kind against Professor Martin and/or the University, for alleged acts committed by Martin. 

As Ms. Hill noted, Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act requires disclosure of information related to the expenditure of public funds.  The information you seek does not relate to the expenditure of public funds; thus, the University respectfully declines your records request.

For the following requested information, I am not citing the Delaware FOIA, but am instead making a general media inquiry to your institution:

The University can verify employment for former employees, but does not disclose personnel data beyond verification.   Vincent Martin worked here from 2000-2011.

When did Vincent Martin work at the University Of Delaware? 

What year did he start his employment, and what month and year did he leave the University?

What titles and/or positions did he have, while employed by the University. Why did Martin leave the University?

Other than teaching, was Martin paid for his participation in any other on- or off-campus programs, including any summer educational programs, specifically any program in Spain?

During his tenure at the University of Delaware, did the university administration receive any complaints about Martin’s behavior, investigate any of those complaints, and issue any findings and/or discipline in response to those complaints?

Did the University of Delaware Police Department investigate any complaints against Vincent Martin made to the University and or the University Police Department? If so, please provide me with details about those complaints and subsequent investigations.

The University of Delaware Police Department’s records indicate no complaints were made against Vincent Martin. 

Thanks very much in advance for your help.

Sincerely,

Paul Krueger

NBC San Diego

Paul Krueger

Senior Producer

NBC 7 San Diego

619-578-0269 (desk)

Paul.krueger@nbcuni.com

225 Broadway, #100

San Diego, CA  92101


From: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal)
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 3:22 PM
To:john.kowalko@state.de.us‘; ‘kowalkoforthe25th@gmail.com


Subject: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Good Afternoon Rep. Kowalko,

My name is Lynn Walsh and I am an Investigative Journalists at the NBC station in San Diego.

I am working on a story involving a professor who used to teach at University of Delaware. I submitted a request for some information (more details and the University’s response are below) about his time at the University but it was denied by the school. I received your name from a fellow journalist and friend Chris Carl.

I was reaching out to you to see if you have any other ideas on how I might be able to obtain this information or would be willing to talk to me about my request and the denial?

I feel that this information is VERY basic public information and am honestly, very surprised that a PUBLIC University would deny a request like this from any member of the public.

Thanks for your time and feel free to call me at either number below. I will also be following up with a phone call. Thank you!


From: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal) <Lynn.walsh@nbcuni.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:50 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall); kowalkoforthe25th@gmail.com
Subject: RE: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Rep. Kowalko,

Thank you so much for your time today.

I am working on drafting the request and will send that shortly.

In the meantime, the other question I had was this:

If this professor did OR was accused of sexual harassment or any misconduct while teaching for ten years at UD, would the University have been required to report this to the state or elsewhere? If so, to who?

Thank you – trying to see if I can get the information from another source possibly. Also, here are links to the stories we have done here:

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/SDSU-Professor-Still-Teaching-After-Sexually-Harassing-Student–301129881.html

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/SDSU-Professor-Accused-303131771.html


From: Kowalko, John (LegHall) [mailto:John.Kowalko@state.de.us]
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:04 PM
To: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal)
Subject: Fw: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

 initial response from my son. He just received the situation info.

John Kowalko


From: John Kowalko III <dogbert3002@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 8:40 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Subject: Re: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Dad,
I have two initial thoughts.

(1) UD needs to be challenged on this “does not relate to the expenditures of public funds.” What does that even mean? What documents are they even using to support this? A FOIA request for all specific line-item expenditures involving public funds might work, but I could see UD trying to abuse the FOIA fees for a request like that.

(2) I don’t believe Delaware has any laws requiring reporting of these types of allegations, at least outside of official police reports. I think getting this data over UD’s objections could be difficult given the current state of Delaware law, but I also have not researched the issue to see if I am missing anything.


From: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal) <Lynn.walsh@nbcuni.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 9:15 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Subject: RE: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Thank you so much!

I am going to follow-up with the request to ask about expenditure of public funds.

In the meantime here is a draft of the information we are looking for – let me know what I need to add to it, etc. If it is completely wrong format let me know – first time doing this:

[Your Name]

[Street Address]

[City, ST ZIP Code]

[Date]

University of Delaware

General Counsel, Public Information Officer

112 Hullihen Hall

Newark, DE  19716

Dear University of Delaware:

Under the Delaware Freedom of Information Act § 100001 et seq., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of public records:

  • Detail the employment history of former University of Delaware Professor Vincent Martin. This includes information detailing his salary, position and classes taught while he was an employee from 2000-2011.
  • Any complaints received about the former professors from students, faculty or parents during his time with the University.
  • Any investigation documents associated with the former professor or documents detailing any warnings or appeals made by the former professor.
  • The annual salary and cost of benefits and any other payments and/or compensation paid to Vincent Martin during his tenure at the University of Delaware. Please provide me with a yearly break-down of those payments for the years in which Professor Martin was associated with and/or employed by, the University of Delaware. I am also requesting information about any payments made on his, and/or the University’s behalf to any third parties (including, but not limited to, students, faculty and staff and campus visitors) who complained about and/or filed any claims and/or lawsuits or legal action of any kind against Professor Martin and/or the University, for alleged acts committed by Martin.

We believe the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding.

Thank you for considering my request.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Your Phone number]


From: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal) <Lynn.walsh@nbcuni.com>
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 12:56 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Subject: RE: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Here is a link to our story: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/SDSU-Professor-Accused-Of-Sexual-Harassment-Has-History-Of-Similar-Behavior-353112391.html?utm_content=bufferbb5a5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

And a link to the document detailing past behavior at University of Delaware: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2573931-sharpcpy-mail-sdsu-edu-20151120-184817.html


From: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 1:53 PM
To: aloudell@dbcmedia.com; acherry@wdel.com; al@wdel.com; albydm@aol.com; jdf0000@aol.com; james.dawson@wdde.org; rick@wdel.com; mbittle@newszap.com; kevino3670@yahoo.com; Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Dwyer, Sean (LegHall)
Subject: Fw: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Here’s what a closed, non-transparent environment in a taxpayer funded entity allows to happen. UofD refused to release or acknowledge this professors record while he served here when NBC ( made inquiries. The University general counsel claimed privilege under the FOIA exemption given to the UofD. It’s very alarming to allow questionable/immoral/illegal behavior to be hidden and tacitly condoned by a secretive policy that eventually permits a continuation of bad and harmful behavior to be transferred elsewhere. I hope you all will be inspired to demand release of HB 42 from committee for a floor vote. ​HB 42 would repeal the exemption to FOIA that the University of Delaware enjoys and restore its status as a “public” institution since it receives over $110 million in taxpayer funds. I’ve also pasted below the entire email dialogue I’ve had with the NBC reporter (Lynn Walsh) including the response she received from UofD to her queries.
Respectfully,
Representative John Kowalko

And there we have it.  Delaware’s biggest university refusing to give information on an ex-employee being held accountable out in Southern California.
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