Legal complaint filed against ASU seeking professor’s emails


The Appalachian Online

Joshua Farmer

Watauga County Republican Party Chairwoman Anne-Marie Yates filed a formal complaint against Appalachian State University on Monday in order to receive emails she requested from the university 11 months ago.

The request is for the emails of Stella Anderson, a management professor at Appalachian.

“Appalachian State University has received multiple public records requests from Anne-Marie Yates,” said Hank Foreman, Appalachian’s Chief Communications Officer. “For the requests submitted on Sept. 23, 2013 and Oct. 16, 2013, the university has provided the records as requested. On Oct. 18, 2013, Ms. Yates submitted a public record request for all emails in Dr. Stella Anderson’s university email account.”

The complaint alleges Appalachian is intentionally delaying a response to the public records request “because the records will show that the Defendant’s employee, Stella Anderson, utilized state-owned computer systems, and state-owned email systems to further Stella Anderson’s choice of political candidates and opinions in direct violation of N.C.G.S. 126-13.”

Foreman said the university is legally obligated to assess the public records before disclosing them to Yates.

“For the time frame established in Ms. Yates’ request, that faculty account contains 19,275 records that must be reviewed individually to ensure that the submitted emails qualify as public records,” Foreman said. “The university has a legal responsibility to maintain confidentiality of personnel and student education records, so every record must be reviewed to determine whether the university may disclose it.”

Foreman said the university asked the plaintiff to narrow her request in order to be able to comply in a more timely manner.

“University General Counsel Dayton Cole inquired in December, 2013 whether the request could be narrowed to allow for a more timely response,” he said. “In January2014, while modifying the date range, Ms. Yates declined to narrow the scope of the request.”

The complaint is seeking a judicial order forcing the defendant to produce all the requested records.

Story: Nicole Caporaso, Senior News Reporter