By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published February 22, 2010
When University alum Robert Davis slapped the University’s Board of Regents with a lawsuit late last week, he said he simply wanted to stress the importance of holding the University’s leaders accountable.
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Davis’s lawsuit stems from a special, informal meeting of the Board of Regents held on Feb. 3 behind closed doors in University President Mary Sue Coleman’s private conference room. A source familiar with the situation told The Michigan Daily at the time that the focus of the meeting was the NCAA’s investigation into allegations that the Michigan Football team violated NCAA regulations regarding the amount of time student-athletes can spend in practice and off-season workouts.
Davis's 24-page summons and complaint filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court alleges the University violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act by holding the meeting behind closed doors and for refusing to release minutes from the meeting, among other claims.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily yesterday, Davis said he simply wanted the University’s governing board to comply with all applicable laws and hold itself to the same high standards it holds its students to.
“It’s very important for public bodies to be open and to adhere to the same legal regulations that they hold student-athletes to, like the NCAA regulations,” Davis said.
Davis said he tried to attend the private, hastily-called regents meeting, but was not permitted to do so.
“I had gone to the meeting on Feb. 3 and had been denied entry and had requested meeting minutes and was denied that,” Davis said. “There comes a point where the law must be upheld.”
Davis said he hopes his lawsuit will encourage administrators to publicly release the minutes from the Feb. 3 meeting, to hold discussions on the NCAA investigation in an open meeting and ensure that a similar event doesn’t happen again in the future.
However, University officials have maintained no minutes exist for the meeting, a claim that Davis said he does not believe.
“Every elementary law student or elementary student knows that any meeting of a public body must have (minutes),” he said.
In an interview last night, University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said it would be premature for her to comment on the lawsuit, since the University has yet to be officially served.
However, last week Cunningham told the Daily she believed the University had acted appropriately when it held the private regents meeting at the beginning of February.
One of Davis's attorneys, Aina Watkins said this isn’t the first time Davis has brought a suit like this, noting that he has filed several suits regarding the Open Meetings Act in the past.
“He just believes that public bodies need to keep the public informed about the decisions that they make regarding public employees or students, or things of that sort,” she said. “That’s his motivation, from me knowing him.”
It remains unclear what will happen with the case, but Watkins told the Daily yesterday the University may want to settle the case because of the attention it has been receiving.
“It’s a big case and I think because of the national attention, the fact that this investigation has been going on since the summer, they may want to settle,” Watkins said. “But I have no idea because I haven’t spoken to anyone.”
Davis said he will continue to pursue the issue, but admitted the University's legal resources may put a strain on his ability to persist in the case.
"We’re going to treat this as a full-fledged case and in the coming days we’ll see how committed I am," Davis said.
The NCAA’s investigation into the Michigan football program was launched on Oct. 23, when NCAA Vice President for Enforcement David Price sent a letter of inquiry to Coleman.
In the letter Price said he planned to complete the investigation by Dec. 31, 2009, but said the date was not a formal deadline.
The allegations against the Michigan football team were first brought fourth in an August 2009 report published in the Detroit Free Press. At the time, the University launched an internal investigation into the situation. University officials have not released any new information regarding the internal investigation.