Central Michigan Life reported factual errors in the front page story, “FOIA for LaBelle, CMU lawsuit settlement denied by university officials,” published in the April 4 edition.
In the story, it was reported that CM Life reporter was denied a copy of a lawsuit settlement between the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees and LaBelle Limited Partners after a Freedom of Information Act request.
Sherry Knight, vice president of University Communications, sent an email with the settlement document attached on Dec. 5 to University Editor Ben Solis. The email sent to Solis was flagged as spam and was not found that day.
The email was sent Dec. 5 when CMU held its regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting. During this meeting, trustees approved a $175,000, 30-year land lease for the construction of an on-campus hotel. A lawsuit was filed over a previous attempt to plan and construct the hotel, which was dismissed, appealed and then settled out of court.
CM Life requested a copy of the settlement in a press conference after the meeting. Initially, the reporter was instructed by university officials to make a formal FOIA request for documents.
While the reporter set about requesting the document, Knight, along with CMU’s General Counsel Manuel Rupe, made sure CM Life received the settlement in a timely and expedited manner. Within an hour of the verbal request, the reporter was sent the document.
The reporter was not aware that the document had been delivered until University Communications and the Office of General Council contacted the CM Life office on Friday after the story was published.
A reporter sent a written FOIA request to Rupe’s office on Jan. 26 asking for additional documents and the settlement. The response indicated that additional documents were not available through FOIA and the settlement agreement had been sent to the reporter on Dec. 5. The reporter should have followed up with the office for clarification on what had previously been sent before publishing Friday’s story.
We would like to apologize to Knight, Rupe, Director of Public Relations Steve Smith and Assistant General Counsel Mary Roy for the errors made in the article and errors of judgment made by the reporter. We would like to thank them for their understanding and continued support of the CM Life staff.
An article about the settlement will be published later this week.