Posts tagged: Idaho Public Records Act
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s office destroyed 22 of the 37 applications it received for two recent State Board of Education openings, reports Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News, because it said they contained “sensitive personal information.” Richert filed a public records request under the Idaho Public Records Act for the applications, but only got 15 of them.
Richert noted that in the applications the governor’s office did release, personal information such as driver’s license numbers was blacked out; you can read his full report here.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — University of Idaho officials say at least one police officer knew of alleged gun threats against a graduate student before she was shot and killed by a professor she had been dating. The school issued a statement Wednesday saying a police officer included on a threat assessment team was made aware of the threats that 22-year-old Katy Benoit reported. Benoit complained to the university in June that professor Ernesto Bustamante had threatened her with a firearm three separate times during the relationship. Moscow Police Chief David Duke said Friday he was unaware of gun threats until after Bustamante shot and killed Benoit on Aug. 22 and committed suicide. On Wednesday, Duke said the officer on the assessment team reported after the shooting that the team had brief talks about gun threats.
Police didn't know about alleged gun threats a University of Idaho professor made against a graduate student until after he shot and killed her, Moscow Police Chief David Duke told The Associated Press today. The news comes as reporters around the state continue to comb through thousands of documents released this week by the University of Idaho on Ernesto Bustamante, the former professor who shot graduate student Katy Benoit to death in August and then killed himself. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
You can also read the Spokesman-Review's full story here from today's paper, which includes reporting from S-R reporter Kevin Graman along with the Idaho Statesman and the Associated Press. Also, AP reporter John Miller has a report here on how UI faculty and officials struggled after the killing, wondering whether they'd missed clues to Bustamante's true nature, and the Statesman has published Benoit's June 12 formal complaint here, raising serious concerns to the university about Bustamante.
As reporters comb through the thousands of documents released by the University of Idaho yesterday regarding former professor Ernesto Bustamante, disturbing details are emerging, from allegations that the professor engaged in orgies with students to his not only denying his victim's complaints against him, but also maligning her as a drug abuser and drug dealer. Bustamante shot a 22-year-old graduate student, Katy Benoit, to death before killing himself in August. You can click below for the latest story from AP reporter Jessie Bonner, and click here for S-R reporter Kevin Graman's latest report.
Records released by the University of Idaho yesterday include student evaluations from the fall of 2010 in which a student complained that then-Professor Ernesto Bustamante talked about shooting students, the Associated Press reports. “He talked about shooting students, which was disturbing, and implied that he was (and we should be) drunk and high every other day,” wrote the student, who is not identified in the teaching evaluations. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner. You can read Spokesman-Review reporter Kevin Graman's story here from today's paper on how the UI is strengthening its ban on faculty-student relationships after the slaying of 22-year-old graduate student Katy Benoit by her professor, Bustamante, who then killed himself.
Click below to read a detailed timeline released by the University of Idaho today from the hiring of former professor Ernesto Bustamante in 2007 to his murder of graduate student Katy Benoit and his subsequent suicide. The information was released pursuant to the Idaho Public Records Law; the university and news media outlets from around the state went to court for a ruling on whether a personnel records exemption blocked the release of Bustamante's employment records, and 2nd District Judge John Stegner ruled that the public's right to know outweighed any privacy concern in releasing the records.
Among the information in the timeline: Reports of Bustamante's “flirtatious behavior and favoritism” starting coming in within his first semester of teaching, prompting his department chairman to counsel him on proper faculty-student relationships; his student evaluations in 2009 were “consistently good;” the first report to the university's Ethics and Compliance Hotline of Bustamante having sexual relationships with students including an abusive and coercive relationship with a student other than Benoit, came in December of 2010, but that purported victim refused to file a complaint and Bustamante denied any wrongdoing. Benoit complained to the university about Bustamante in June of this year, but asked to delay the serving of her formal complaint to Bustamante; it was served on him in July.
Then, on July 14, a University Threat Assessment Team was convened, including a representative of the Moscow Police Department, and Benoit was advised that investigators would interview Bustamante on July 19 and that she should stay somewhere other than her apartment to avoid contact with him. Bustamante acknowledged the relationship but denied threatening Benoit, then agreed to resign. The university sent police to Benoit's home when she missed a meeting that day; she was at school and had forgotten it. The university had five contacts with Benoit between then and Aug. 22 expressing concern about her safety, including when she attended a mandatory sexual harassment workshop for graduate students on Aug. 18. She was shot to death on Aug. 22, the same day a university official met with her to inform her that Bustamante's employment had ended Aug. 19 and to urge her remain vigilant and contact police if she had safety concerns.
In response to questions from reporters, UI President Duane Nellis said former professor Ernesto Bustamante was allowed to resign rather than fired because it was “the fastest way to make that happen.” He said, “We were interested in expediting this, and that was the fastest way to get that done.” Asked if UI personnel gave recommendations to Bustamante, who reportedly had other employment lined up, Nellis said, “Not to our knowledge.” He said, “I think we acted aggressively and appropriately.”
Nellis said, “We did immediately contact the Moscow Police Department.” But asked why the university didn't immediately inform the Moscow Police that the professor had assaulted graduate student Katy Benoit with a handgun and threatened her life, UI general counsel Kent Nelson said, “That was information that Katy had and did not want us to disclose it to police. … We respected Katy's wishes.”
Nellis noted that the university did put together a threat team that directly involved the Moscow Police. “That's part of the documents that we have provided today,” he said.
In response to questions about whether the university knew about Bustamante's mental problems, Nellis said, “As the timeline indicates, the chair of the psychology department was informed by Bustamante … that he was bipolar and that he was taking medication for that.” He noted that the university isn't permitted to ask about medical conditions when hiring. “Bipolar is certainly something that's treatable,” he said. When a faculty member asks for assistance or counseling, we certainly want to be supportive of them.”
Said Nellis, “As anyone associated with our university knows, we have a very special community here. We've come together in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy. Going forward we'll be stronger and wiser, and we'll never forget our responsibility to Katy, her family and her friends.”
“We must learn from this tragedy and do all that we can to prevent it from ever happening again,” UI President Duane Nellis said today. “I believe that that the university's response to Katy's concerns … speaks for itself. The university responded immediately and decisively to protect Katy and to remove Bustamante from our community. We communicated and coordinated with Katy and the Moscow Police Department and counseled Katy repeatedly to seek protection and to use violence protection resources available to her. We still, however, suffered an unthinkable tragedy. We must learn from this and empower our community to take the best possible care of each other.”
Nellis said UI policies already prohibited relationships between a faculty member and a student they supervise or have influence over, but he has asked the Faculty Senate to strengthen its rules about consensual relationships between faculty and students. “We're trying to put stronger wording into that part of the policy,” he said. “Clearly our policies prohibited the situation that evolved here, and Bustamante was advised of that directly.” He said he also wants to implement “criminal background checks on faculty before they're hired,” and on any university staff. “In this particular case, that wouldn't have led to” not hiring Bustamante, he said. “But I think it's just good general practice as we move forward.” In addition, he said the UI will “redouble our training and education efforts in the area of sexual harassment to include additional mandatory courses for supervisors, faculty and staff.”
The university is releasing Bustamante's employment records today, sending them by overnight delivery to media outlets that filed public requests for them; there are more than 4200 files, aabout half a gigabyte of data.
University of Idaho President Duane Nellis said, “Today we are publicly releasing university records pertaining to the tragedy surrounding the death of Katy Benoit. In doing so we're honoring the commitment to transparency that I made personally to the people of Idaho and the family of Katy Benoit as well as the University of Idaho's commitment to full disclosure. I'm also announcing policy and procedural changes that are now under way. Today's release includes the university's record of Ernesto Bustamante's employment at the University of Idaho. This includes his evaluations by students and superiors, documents of the circumstances that led to his separation from the university, and additional detail on the incident timeline that we released earlier.”
The University of Idaho will hold a news conference momentarily regarding release of the personnel records of former professor Ernesto Bustamante, who killed graduate student Katy Benoit before taking his own life.
2nd District Judge John Stegner has ordered the personnel records of former UI Professor Ernesto Bustamante released, in a court case in which the University of Idaho and media organizations from across the state appealed to the court to see if privacy protections for state personnel records persist after the employee is dead; Bustamante shot himself to death after police say he fatally shot UI student Katy Benoit outside her Moscow home. “This provides us with what we sought: a clear path forward,” University of Idaho general counsel Kent Nelson said in a statement. “It has always been the university's intention to be as open and transparent as the law allows in this matter.” Click below for a full report from the Lewiston Tribune and the Associated Press.
Judge Stegner, ruling from the bench, held that the definition of “former official” does include one who is dead, but then applied a balancing test and ordered disclosure of the records, determining that the public's right to know outweighed the privacy right of the “former official.” The UI doesn't plan to appeal the ruling, which sets precedent for such cases in the future.
The University of Idaho asked a court on Monday whether it can release employment records for the late Ernesto Bustamante, a former assistant professor who killed himself last week after murdering a graduate student, 22-year-old Katy Benoit. The university joined with media outlets including the Idaho Statesman, the Lewiston Tribune and the Moscow-Pullman Daily news in filing the motion for declaratory judgment, which asks the court to interpret the meaning of the Idaho Public Records Law §9-340C(1), which bars public agencies from releasing most personnel records for current and former employees without the employee’s consent. The question is whether that bar still applies after the death of the employee.
Kent Nelson, university general counsel, said, “We want to provide a timely accounting for the public within the bounds of the law. … We’re working with the media outlets to gain a timely answer to this question.” Click below for a full report from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.