Alumnus files suit after University denied FOIA application

By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 29, 2013

The University receives over 500 Freedom of Information Act requests each year, including several from The Michigan Daily.

One request was from 2002 alum David Boyle in an attempt to obtain the external audit conducted in the fallout from the StephenJenson case — in which University officials waited six months to report that a medical resident was in possession of child pornography.

Boyle was denied the FOIA on the basis that the information contained in the audit — conducted by the law firm Latham & Watkins — was protected under attorney-client privilege. The Michigan Daily, which had also filed a FOIA request, was denied on similar grounds.

After being denied the FOIA, Boyle has filed a lawsuit against the University challenging its claim that the external audit is privileged information.

The external audit was presented to the University’s Board of Regents and they summarized their findings in a memo released to the public.

Although Boyle, who works as a lawyer in California, is far from campus, he said he has been following the Jenson case since the beginning.

“As a good citizen of the University, when there‘s child pornography involved, it's important to know what‘s going on,” Boyle said.

Boyle said the administration should release the documents, and though he'd like to avoid going to trial, he will continue to pursue the lawsuit if the University refuses to release the external audit.

“I don't think (attorney-client privilege) can always be used as an excuse,” Boyle said.

Boyle said the University should make all information relevant to the case available to the public.

“It's absolutely hideous that this could happen,” Boyle continued. “We have to hold people accountable or else you don't know what might happen. The more transparency the better to avoid further incidents from happening.”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said he shares Boyle's belief that the situation requires lucidity and accuracy, and said he feels their actions reflect that.

Fitzgerald added that the Division of Public Safety and Security was created as a result of the incident and is designed to be preventative in nature.

Fitzgerald said this case has been taken seriously and covered extensively, the administration has also created a website as a means for the public to access documents related to the case.

“The approach with this case has been incredibly transparent, and we've released document after document after document," Fitzgerald said. “Many items have been tied up in the federal prosecution, but those were also made public after (the case ended).”

He added that the decision to withhold the documents was in order to protect people's privacy and not reveal anyone's personal information.

“As the primary University spokesperson for this issue, I feel the University has gone out of its way to answer questions and provide information regarding this issue,” Fitzgerald said. “There's always been a wealth of information available and everything is in place for those who want it.”