Nov 12, 2019

Two Fresno State faculty members are suing Fresno State over public records

Two Craig School of Business faculty members are suing Fresno State in Superior Court in Fresno to force the university to release records relating to the Master of Business Administration programs.

Drs. Denise Patterson and Susan Geringer filed the lawsuit a week after spring semester ended, requesting a writ that would order Fresno State to comply with the state’s public records act.

The duo claims the university failed to release records identifying all master’s student projects and theses; students’ full names; and the names of any full-time, part-time or retired faculty serving as supervisors or mentors for each project between Aug. 1, 2013, and March 1, 2018.

According to the lawsuit, Patterson and Geringer hand-delivered a request letter to Dr. Robert Harper, dean of the Craig School of Business, and Dr. William Bommer and Tom Burns of the school on March 6, 2018.

According to the complaint, the university responded 10 days later. In its email reply, the university said the records weren’t going to be available within the 10-day statutory time limit for responses and that there would be an update sent to the two professors no later than March 23.

According to the complaint, there was some back-and-forth communication among Patterson, Geringer and the university. On April 5, the university reported that 12 pages of documents that were believed to be responsive to the professors’ request had been located. The professors were informed there would be a charge of $2.40 for copies.

The complaint says the check for the copying fee was sent on April 11. On April 13, Steven A. Geringer of Madera, who is Patterson’s and Geringer’s attorney, emailed Fresno State asking when the records’ arrival might be expected. The university replied the same day, enclosing electronic copies of the records.

The suit alleges that the electronic records sent are incomplete; that they ended in May 2016, roughly a year and a half before the requested end date. Most of the information Patterson and Geringer requested, such as project titles and student names, was redacted.

Steven Geringer declined to explain what prompted his clients to request the data.

On April 16, Steven Geringer sent a letter to the university, stating that Fresno State had failed to comply with the state public records act. A follow-up letter was then sent nine days later. According to him, there’s been no contact between his clients and Fresno State since then. Steven Geringer also said the university has given no legal reason for not complying with the request.

Attempts to reach the attorney in the lawsuit so far have been unsuccessful.

Fresno State spokeswoman Patti Waid declined to comment on the lawsuit. She said on Monday, “The university cannot comment on pending litigation.”

A hearing on a motion to issue the writ was set for July 25. However it was taken off the court’s calendar because there was no proof of service of the motion in the court’s file. A new hearing date has not been set.

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