Judge orders WVU to pay fees to PG

University to reimburse costs in open records suit

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A West Virginia judge has ordered West Virginia University to pay attorneys fees and costs incurred by the Post-Gazette when it sued the university under the state's open records law last year.

But Monongalia Circuit Court Judge Robert B. Stone ruled that WVU gave the newspaper all the information it was required to disclose relating to its decision to retroactively award a graduate degree to Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch that she did not earn. Ms. Bresch is the daughter of West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette co-publisher John Robinson Block and Executive Editor David Shribman announced yesterday that they would use the attorneys fee award to underwrite further efforts by the paper to promote open government and freedom of information.

Those costs have not been determined and must be submitted to the judge for approval.

The Post-Gazette sued the university in April, alleging it failed to comply with West Virginia's open records law. In his Dec. 29 decision, Judge Stone noted that the newspaper did not obtain the information it was entitled to until after the lawsuit was filed.

A Dec. 21, 2007, story by the Post-Gazette questioned how WVU retroactively awarded a degree to Ms. Bresch even though school records showed she had completed only about half of the required credits. WVU rescinded the degree in April after an independent panel concluded that the university falsified Ms. Bresch's transcript by adding courses she did not register for, pay for, or complete.

The scandal led to the resignations of WVU President Michael Garrison, Provost Gerald Lang and business school Dean R. Stephen Sears.

Fritz Byers, a lawyer for the Post-Gazette, said the newspaper is reviewing the opinion and considering its options.

Len Boselovic can be reached at lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941. Patricia Sabatini can be reached at psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.


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