The Charleston Gazette-Mail filed a lawsuit against the WVU Board of Governors on Oct. 19, alleging the Board violated state open meetings laws, according to an article from the newspaper.
Over a 120-day period, the board gathered in five executive sessions, which are closed to the public, to discuss the University’s response to COVID-19, social justice movements on campus and other topics.
The complaint argues that discussions surrounding COVID-19 and social justice do not exempt the Board of Governors from keeping the meeting private.
The meetings in question were held on the following dates:
June 19, 2020
July 24, 2020
Aug. 14, 2020
Sept. 4, 2020
Sept. 18, 2020
Filed in the Monongalia County Circuit Court, the lawsuit addresses the private June 19 meeting, of which 14 of the board's 17 members were in attendance.
“The content of the discussions included the school’s budget, a talk with the athletic director [Shane Lyons] about the ‘outlook for this upcoming season,’ the business college, emergency pay policy, federal Title IX regulations, tuition and fees, capital projects, the coronavirus pandemic and a petition signed by more than 800 people calling WVU ‘systemically anti-Black.’”
At the conclusion of the same meeting, board member Elmer Coppoolse said in a statement that the committee “discussed at some length the expressed concern and demands by the [B]lack community on our campus and the protests that we heard loud and clear[.]”
The July 24, Aug. 14, Sept. 4 and Sept. 18 meetings addressed WVU’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the complaint.
At the regular WVU Board of Governors Sept. 18 meeting, board member Marty Becker told the entire board that the Joint Committee met privately in the morning. Becker said that the committee “met this morning, and predominantly were in executive session for extensive discussion about the coronavirus and COVID and its various ramifications on the university and on its financial affairs.”
The West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act, the law in question of violation, requires all meetings of any governing body to be open to the public, except when specifically granted by law to be private.
The WVOGPA states, “The people in delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for them to know and what is not good for them to know.”