The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

May 13, 2014

Veteran writer having FOIA issue with WVU

Asking readers to respond in poll

MORGANTOWN — This is something about a matter I thought could be kept between me and West Virginia University, my alma mater.

But a Freedom of Information Act request for 20 years of public annual academic averages and graduation rates for the WVU wrestling teams — required and made public for submission to the NCAA — has not been fulfilled within the statute’s five-business-days rule.

I happen to have in my possession an e-mail dated April 15, 2014, confirming receipt of that FOIA request for the past 20 years of those annual academic averages.

However, WVU’s FOIA representative, Harry Montoro, who is an attorney, conferred with the athletic department and could find those wrestling documents for only the last three years. Some would call that stonewalling.

What’s more, those were on internet e-mail links — not numbers I am able to call up. I had informed Montoro through two phone voicemails and later his assistant on the phone that three years — instead of the requested 20 — is totally unacceptable.

Moreover, I told her, too, that WVU could obtain my requested information from the NCAA. That is, if the university’s business bookkeeping truly lost the averages for the previous 17 years, it is their responsibility to obtain those through a call to the NCAA — not mine.

You may recall that Craig Turnbull, head coach of the wrestling program for 36 honorable years, was fired by Athletic Director Oliver Luck in April.

I am told that Luck gave as one reason for the dismissal was that Turnbull did not graduate his wrestlers. That’s why Mickey Furfari has requested 20 years of academic averages — not just those last three, which I suppose might not be very good. Let’s be fair in analyzing such an allegation.

In the meantime, Montoro has failed to return either of the two phone messages I politely left for him. In the second, I mentioned that I was disappointed he didn’t return the first message.

I considered that, in this 90-year-old journalist’s opinion, a lack of courtesy and a lack of respect.

This veteran of 70 years covering WVU sports happens to be legally blind and hard of hearing. I pay a person to type my four columns each week for three fine newspapers.

Finally, having informed Montoro’s assistant I intended to go public if necessary, I decided to do exactly that.

On May 5, 2014, I received an e-mail from Montoro in which he had the following message:

“Mr. Furfari:

“I received your message from today, which you left with my assistant, and please consider this email a response to your message.

“Please note that I conducted a reasonable search in conjunction with the Athletic Dept. and the three years of wrestling GPA documents previously provided to you on April 23, 2014 are the only responsive documents related to your request.”

He added that under W.Va. FOIA there is no obligation to create a document, but only to provide access to public records already created.

Obviously, I’m not a lawyer. At my age and my physical condition, I have no interest in becoming a lawyer. Furthermore, I don’t like to argue.

But it’s my firm feeling that WVU’s representative has possibly missed the point of this unfortunate issue.

Those documents for each of the past 20 years — and even longer — already exist. All were sent to the NCAA and made public.

WVU provided those annually, published, and sent annually to the NCAA.

What’s more, it is my contention that it is the responsibility, under W.Va. FOIA, of WVU to obtain and fulfill my request for all 20 years of annual numbers — and not on internet links.

That’s why I’m turning this personal column into sort of a public rating poll.

I’d like my readers to consider the facts herein and pass judgment on what’s become an unfortunate issue between this columnist and his alma mater.

Please decide who you believe is right in this matter: WVU or Mickey Furfari. I welcome your views, positive or negative, in this poll by e-mail to mickeyfurfari@yahoo.com before Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

I’ll publish just the final score — no names — in a column the next day.

Harry Montoro closed his last message to me by saying I should direct any further questions or inquiries “elsewhere.”

That’s what I’m trying to do today. Is WVU in violation of the Freedom of Information Act? I am just asking the public opinion in this matter. Thank you.

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