YSU Officials keep faculty union talks top secret

The university initially released its classified proposals.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University officials won't turn over documentation dealing with faculty union negotiations, saying it is confidential information.
The Vindicator on June 13 formally asked YSU officials to release "any and all documents exchanged between the Ohio Education Association that represents full-time faculty at Youngstown State University and the university."
The newspaper cited YSU's release of initial contract proposals between the university and the YSU Associated Classified Employees as evidence that the documents are public records.
The newspaper's request came the same day that a Mahoning County magistrate denied requests for temporary restraining orders by the two unions against YSU to release the documents.
Magistrate Eugene Fehr said he was not convinced that a restraining order needed to be issued, and no justification was shown to keep the records of negotiations between YSU and the two unions private. A hearing is scheduled Wednesday in common pleas court to prevent YSU from continuing to release any negotiation information other than a tentative or new agreement with both unions.
YSU response
In a letter to the newspaper responding to the document request, YSU legal counsel Holly A. Jacobs wrote that the faculty union and the university were in mediation, and thus the records can't be released.
"These records are covered by the confidentiality in mediation exception to public records law found in state and federal statutory and case law," Jacobs wrote.
Jacobs was asked by the newspaper to provide the legal citations for her decision, but declined. She said the letter speaks for itself and the university isn't required to provide specific legal citations for denying a records request.
Newspaper's action
David Marburger, the newspaper's attorney, said YSU should be compelled to cite state and federal law as to why it won't release the faculty contract.
"Any time the government refuses to give you its legal authority for a decision to withhold information, the government should be sued immediately," he said.
A federal mediator was called into negotiations with the 380-member faculty union on Nov. 18 before contract discussions began. The two sides exchanged proposals April 1. At that meeting, Carolyn Brommer, the federal mediator for this contract, bowed out because of other commitments and turned the mediation over to Jack Yoedt, another federal mediator.
With a mediator involved, negotiations are confidential, Jacobs wrote.
Both sides have described the contract negotiations as cordial and say progress is being made.
Based on a records request, the university gave The Vindicator the initial contract proposals between it and ACE, which represents about 400 classified civil service employees. The difference between negotiations with the two unions is that there is no federal mediator involved in the classified employees' contract discussions.
In its three-year contract proposal, ACE is seeking a 5 percent annual raise, an enrollment incentive up to $1,350 annually added to base pay, better health care coverage and more paid holidays.
In its proposal, the university is offering annual raises of 1.5 percent, no enrollment incentive, changes to health care coverage that could cost some members additional dollars and the same number of paid holidays.
ACE's contract expires Aug. 15. The faculty contract expires Aug. 21.

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