Judge orders mediation in UNC Chapel Hill suit

Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ordered UNC Chapel Hill and 10 media outlets that have sued the university to mediate their dispute over public records. Stephens told lawyers for the university he was "troubled" that the chancellor had announced the discipline or firing of nine employees without providing additional information. 

A group of 10 media organizations jointly sued the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in November over personnel records related to the academic-athletic scandal at the university. In October, Chancellor Carol Folt announced that nine university employees were fired or disciplined in the wake of an investigation by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. Folt declined to identify the nine employees and the university subsequently has declined to release records related to eight of them. One was identified after the lawsuit was file. 

The state personnel law requires disclosure of certain information about employees when they are disciplined or fired. The university contends that the actions are not yet final because the employees have not exhausted administrative appeals, and so the information can be withheld. 

During a hearing Friday, Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens heard a motion by the university to dismiss the lawsuit. Stephens denied the university’s motion and told university lawyers that he was “troubled” that Folt announced the discipline without offering any information about the employees. 

Stephens ordered lawyers for the news organizations and the university to meet with a mediator in an effort to resolve the lawsuit. 

Read coverage from the News & Observer here and WRAL here.