Lawsuit: UCLA Failed to Disclose Records on Disruption of Treasury Secretary’s Speech

The Associated Press
Jose Luis Magana/AP
ALANA MASTRANGELO

UCLA was sued on Wednesday for failing to disclose information in response to a public records request involving the disruption of Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin’s speech on campus last year.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sued UCLA on Wednesday after the school had failed to disclose information in response to a public records filed over one year ago relating to a campus speaking appearance by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, said FIRE in a statement on Thursday.

FIRE alleges that the school has obstructed its and the public’s reasonable access to information by granting itself five extensions, totaling to a 391-day delay in the disclosure of the requested information regarding to Mnuchin’s appearance on campus, which later led to the arrests of five protesters.

“UCLA has shirked its responsibility under California law to disclose public information and is withholding administrative records about one of the largest public colleges in the state and a high-ranking member of the federal government,” said FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon.

“A university whose motto is ‘let there be light’ shouldn’t keep the public in the dark,” added the director.

FIRE says that it had filed a public records request on March 2, 2018, seeking any information about agreements made between the secretary’s office and UCLA regarding Mnuchin’s speaking appearance, as well as “a copy of the video and any communications about its release.”

The organization noted that UCLA had uploaded the video to its website on March 9, 2018, but did not release any of the other requested documents.

“Instead, UCLA responded to FIRE with a succession of emails repeatedly awarding itself extensions, most recently to April 30 — which will be 424 days since FIRE first made its request,” states the organization.

UCLA is required by law to turn over “disclosable” public records within ten days after a public records request is filed, but the university can add an extra 14 days if it cites “unusual circumstances.” FIRE alleges, however, that “no unusual circumstances existed.”

“Even in cases where ‘unusual circumstances’ actually exist, UCLA would never be permitted to take more than 24 days to make a determination and notify the requester of that determination,” states FIRE in its lawsuit, “Therefore, in any case, UCLA was required to make a determination by March 26, 2018, at the latest.”

“UCLA can’t be allowed to defeat public records law by unilaterally putting off its response deadline forever,” said the director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program Adam Steinbaugh, “This is a serious abuse of the public trust. UCLA – and public colleges across the country — must recognize that following the law isn’t a choice.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.

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