Sustained Outrage

Show us the money

Last month, as my colleague Doug Smock on the sports desk reported, Marshall University reached a settlement with former compliance director David Ridpath. Ridpath, you may recall, sued the university, former football coach Bob Pruett and other officials, maintaining they turned him into the scapegoat for major NCAA violations within the athletic department.

Roger Forman, Ridpath’s lawyer, told the Gazette that Marshall had agreed to write a letter to the NCAA clearing Ridpath of responsibility for the violations that landed the school on probation. Oh, and there was an undisclosed cash settlement.

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers signed an order on Feb. 2, giving the parties 30 days to iron out the details and submit an agreed order of dismissal for his approval. Barring that, Chambers is free to dismiss the Ridpath case without prejudice, meaning the parties would have to refile to get the case reinstated on Chambers’ docket.

That was 32 days ago.

Both sides well know that they can’t keep the financial terms of the settlement a secret because Marshall University receives public funding. Settlements involving public money have been held to be public records ever since Daily Gazette Co. v. Withrow, a case in which a sheriff’s department tried to hide payments it made to settle legal action against a fired deputy on the grounds that the records were in possession of its lawyer. The Withrow opinion states that “[a] public official has a common law duty to create and maintain, for public inspection and copying, a record of the terms of settlement of litigation brought against the public official or his or her employee(s) in their official capacity.”

Marshall’s attorney, Chuck Bailey, assured me on Wednesday that the finalization of the agreement was imminent, that it was just a question of getting all the proper documents signed. Yet no disclosure of the money changing hands materialized. Nothing has been filed, asking Judge Chambers for an extension.

In his suit, Ridpath asked for $1 million in damages. The public has the right to know how much he is actually getting.