By Linda B. Blackford
The sponsor of a bill to make the University of Pikeville a public school has requested spending records for the president and Board of Regents of Morehead State University, which is vigorously opposing the measure.
A Feb. 15 request under the Open Records Act from House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, asks for all records from the past five years showing expenses incurred by Morehead President Wayne Andrews, his staff and all 11 regents.
The request asks for expenses related to travel, vacations, conventions, recreation, motor vehicles, country clubs or other memberships and any other items of value.
In addition, the request asks for documents related to the “improvement of the educational opportunities” in the 12-county region of southeastern Kentucky that UPike would serve instead of Morehead.
Neither Stumbo nor Andrews was immediately available for comment.
On Friday, the Morehead Board of Regents voted on a resolution to oppose the plan to make UPike public because of limited resources statewide for higher education. Officials have said a public UPike — funded with coal severance tax dollars — could hurt Morehead’s enrollment and program offerings.
In response, Stumbo issued a statement calling the regents “small and petty.”
“Kentuckians should see this for what it is: an attempt to block progress by a group of self-serving individuals,” the statement said. “When all of the facts are brought out, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the board will resign or be asked to resign for how poorly they have served the people of this region.”
The debate has caused a split between Stumbo and one if his chief lieutenants, House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook. Adkins, a Morehead alumni, has recorded his opposition to Stumbo’s bill in a series of telephone messages to Morehead alumni. The messages ask Morehead graduates to oppose House Bill 260.
Morehead regent Julie Butcher of Lexington said she thought the motivation for Stumbo’s open records request was “obvious,” but declined to specify what that meant.
“I don’t think it is appropriate to respond in kind, I choose to continue to take the high road,” she said. “We are offended we’ve been called these kinds of things, but I’m not going to let that control what my responsibility is.”
She also said the request would cause a lot of work for university staff,and would produce nothing of interest.
UPike President and former Gov. Paul Patton declined to comment on Stumbo’s request.
“I do think we’ve tried to focus on the fundamental problem — that our people are not achieving that higher level of education,” Patton said.
When asked about the increasingly strident tones of the debate, Patton said he and Andrews had discussed the issue on Kentucky Education Television Monday night and it had been very “cordial.”
Patton and Stumbo spoke before the House Education Committee on Tuesday. A study on the issue is due to the governor by March 15.