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UI prof’s records ordered released

Tue., Oct. 4, 2011

MOSCOW, Idaho – A judge has ruled the University of Idaho should release the personnel records of a former professor who police say killed a 22-year-old graduate student and then committed suicide, after their relationship ended.

Judge John R. Stegner on Monday ordered the records of Ernesto Bustamante released, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

In his ruling, Stegner decided the mandatory confidentiality of public employee personnel records ends with the death of the individual.

Bustamante resigned from the university three days before police say he shot Katy Benoit nearly a dozen times outside her Moscow home on Aug. 22 and then committed suicide in a hotel room.

Attorneys for the University of Idaho and several media outlets, including The Spokesman-Review, petitioned the court to rule that the former professor’s records were a matter of public record.

The university said it was discussing a timeline to release public material with lawyers for the media outlets, which also include the Associated Press, Idaho newspapers and the Idaho Press Club.

“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.”

Nelson added that the university is complying with a search warrant from the district court as the law enforcement investigation into the deaths continues. Under the warrant, the institution is gathering and turning over university documents related to Bustamante and Benoit.

As the university makes this material available to law enforcement officials, it said it is also making copies of the records in response to public records requests from media outlets. The records include emails number “in the tens of thousands,” Nelson said.

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