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State Asks Judge to Declare University of Wisconsin Audit a Public Record


The state asked a judge earlier this week to make public an audit of a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater dean’s spending, saying there is no reason to suppress the record.

UW-Whitewater Dean Lee Jones sued the university and UW System earlier this month to stop the report’s release, arguing that disclosing the record would harm the university’s diversity efforts. Jones, who is Black, has refused to elaborate on how the report would harm diversity.

But no legal justification exists to block the release of the audit, Maureen McGlynn Flanagan, an attorney with the state Department of Justice, which is representing the university and UW System, argued in a court filing this week.

News organizations and Rep. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, have requested copies of the report, which details a lengthy investigation into credit card spending for purchases and travel by Jones’ office.

Flanagan filed a copy of the report under seal as part of her request that Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess declare the document a public record. She also included a copy of a letter from the UW System’s top auditor to Jones stating the university determined the public’s interest is best served by the report’s release.

Niess has 30 days to rule on Jones’ request for an injunction under state law, but he has yet to schedule a hearing on the matter.

Jones’ lawyer, David Lasker, said the university should revise “all of the inaccuracies and instances that are misleading in the audit report” before making it public. He said he would ask Niess to convene the hearing behind closed doors.

Lasker said the UW System, which has been under intense scrutiny by Republican lawmakers for what they consider a series of personnel missteps in recent months, was overreacting in this case. He said any disciplinary action against Jones “would be unfair and unwise.”

Jones, the school’s dean of graduate studies, continuing education and summer sessions, is involved in a support group for Black males in higher education called Brothers of The Academy.

“He is a very well known African-American educator nationally,” Lasker said.

Jones, 40, was on vacation this week, his office and lawyer said. He has been at UW-Whitewater for one year after coming from Florida State University.

— Associated Press

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