Former UNC Coach Ordered To Turn Over Phone Bills
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A judge has ordered former University of North Carolina football coach Butch Davis to hand over records of calls made on his personal cellphone related to his job duties.
Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning Jr. signed an order Wednesday for Davis to provide his phone bills, which had been requested as public records by media organizations including The Associated Press. Those requests had been rejected for more than a year by the university, which has faced NCAA sanctions related to violations involving the football team while Davis was coach.
Manning’s order gives Davis 30 days to hand over phone bills that include records of calls made as part of his official job duties. The judge will allow the university to black out Davis’ personal calls from the records.
In his order, Manning expressed concern about government employees using their personal cellphones to make work-related related calls in an attempt to avoid public scrutiny.
“University officials and coaches may not use their personal cellphones to ‘dodge’ or evade the North Carolina Public Records law and may not avoid public scrutiny of their cellphone records by using their personal cellphones to conduct public business,” Manning said in his order.
Davis said Wednesday he respects the judge’s decision.
“My sole desire in this process has been to protect the privacy of my family and friends,” Davis was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his lawyer. “To the extent that my colleagues are inconvenienced by the release of these numbers, I apologize to them.”
Davis has previously said he didn’t want information for friends and personal contacts to be published. He said he would turn over records of work-related calls from the personal cellphone he had used for about 10 years shortly before he was fired in July 2011. The school has said outside counsel reviewed the records and found “nothing of concern.”
The media outlets sued, arguing information on calls involving his duties as a university employee constitute a public record.
Following an investigation of improper benefits provided to UNC football players, the NCAA in March issued a one-year postseason ban against the team and eliminated five football scholarships per year in each of the next three academic years. Last week, school officials announced a new investigation to examine academic improprieties involving athletes taking no-show classes and receiving grades they did not earn.
Hired at UNC in late 2006, Davis was not accused of wrongdoing by the NCAA. Still, he has faced questions about what he might have known about the wrongdoing that occurred under his watch.
Davis lawyer Jon Sasser said public disclosure of the calls should put to rest such questions.
“The records of his business calls, which we will fully provide, will confirm the NCAA’s ruling, and UNC’s stated position, that Coach Davis has done absolutely nothing inappropriate,” Sasser said.
Amanda Martin, the lawyer representing the media companies, reiterated that open government laws are in place to assure people have the opportunity to oversee the actions of public officials. Those laws would lose all meaning if a personal cellphone or personal email account were all it took to let officials operate in secret, she said.
“Records of public business conducted on a personal cellphone still are public records,” Martin said. “This is important because anything else would rob us of the transparency we deserve from public officials conducting public business.”
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