Columnist seeks public input in FOIA battle

A column by Mickey Furfari for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This is something about a matter I thought could be kept between me and West Virginia University, my alma mater.

But a Freedom of Information Act request for 20 years of public annual academic averages and graduation rates for the WVU wrestling teams — required and made public for submission to the NCAA — has not been fulfilled within the statute’s five-business-days rule.

I happen to have in my possession an e-mail dated April 15, 2014, confirming receipt of that FOIA request for the past 20 years of those annual academic averages.

However, WVU’s FOIA representative, Harry Montoro, who is an attorney, conferred with the athletic department and could find those wrestling documents for only the last three years. Some would call that stonewalling.

What’s more, those were on internet e-mail links — not numbers I am able to call up. I had informed Montoro through two phone voicemails and later his assistant on the phone that three years — instead of the requested 20 — is totally unacceptable.

Moreover, I told her, too, that WVU could obtain my requested information from the NCAA. That is, if the university’s business bookkeeping truly lost the averages for the previous 17 years, it is their responsibility to obtain those through a call to the NCAA — not mine.

You may recall that Craig Turnbull, head coach of the wrestling program for 36 honorable years, was fired by Athletic Director Oliver Luck in April.

I am told that Luck gave as one reason for the dismissal was that Turnbull did not graduate his wrestlers. That’s why Mickey Furfari has requested 20 years of academic averages — not just those last three, which I suppose might not be very good. Let’s be fair in analyzing such an allegation.

In the meantime, Montoro has failed to return either of the two phone messages I politely left for him. In the second, I mentioned that I was disappointed he didn’t return the first message.

I considered that, in this 90-year-old journalist’s opinion, a lack of courtesy and a lack of respect.

This veteran of 70 years covering WVU sports happens to be legally blind and hard of hearing. I pay a person to type my four columns each week for three fine newspapers.

Finally, having informed Montoro’s assistant I intended to go public if necessary, I decided to do exactly that…

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