Nellis Seeks Court Ruling to Release Records, Commissions Independent Review
Friday, August 26 2011
MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho President M. Duane Nellis today directed the university legal counsel to seek a ruling from the courts to allow the release of personnel information related to former professor Ernesto Bustamante. At the same time, Nellis has ordered an independent review
of the institution’s policies and procedures in the aftermath of this week’s homicide-suicide in Moscow to ensure that the university maintains the highest safety and security standards. The university also today released a detailed chronology of its interaction with graduate student Katy Benoit.
“This tragic situation has brought a profound sadness to our entire community,” said Nellis. “And while incidents of violence like this are very rare in Moscow, even one tragedy is too many. We must continue to do everything we can to protect our students and our campus community; for that reason, I am asking for an independent review of the university’s policies and procedures to ensure that we are doing the very best job we possibly can.”
Nellis also has reaffirmed that the university is committed to full public disclosure of all related documents, as it gains authority to release them.
A review of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act has found that the confidentiality of student records does not extend beyond the life of a student.
However, Idaho’s public records law concerning employee records do seem to extend after death. To clarify how the public records statutes should be applied to this situation, the university will ask for a legal determination from the courts regarding what records it could release related to Bustamante.
Nellis and Bruce Pitman, dean of students, have spoken directly with the family of Katy Benoit, who was killed off campus Monday evening, to share their personal condolences and those of the university community. They have made university resources available to the family. Details of a Moscow campus memorial are still pending. A memorial service and funeral for Benoit will take place in Boise on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 4 p.m., at Boise High School, 1010 W. Washington.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Katy Benoit,” said Nellis. “We understand their desire to have a full accounting of the circumstances that led to Katy’s death. I intend to do everything I can to answer their questions. A tragedy has occurred and we all want answers.”
The university will outline the independent review process in the coming days.
The university maintains its crime statistics online and last year, it ranked as the 36th safest campus in the nation.
The University of Idaho continues to cooperate fully with the Moscow Police Department. It is providing documents with possible relevance to the case to the police as part of MPD’s ongoing investigation of the case.
Here is a timeline for the university’s interactions with Katy Benoit. This does not include any information from the perspective of Bustamante’s personnel record.
• June 10, 2011: University’s first contact with Benoit to discuss a complaint. Based on allegations, the university urged Benoit take safety precautions and that she contact Moscow Police Department (MPD). University provided Benoit with personal contact information for MPD and Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse (ATVP) for assistance beyond those the university could provide. University also contacted Moscow Police Department directly.
• June 12, 2011: University received details of Benoit’s complaint in writing.
• June 13, 2011: Benoit sends e-mail indicating she had contacted MPD.
• June 13, 2011: University replied to Benoit again urging her to also contact ATVP.
• June 14, 2011: Benoit sends e-mail to university saying she does not want Bustamante served with her complaint at this time before discussing it further. She indicates she will come in the next day.
• June 16, 2011: When Benoit did not come in on June 15, the university sent an e-mail to her to encourage the follow-up meeting.
• June 30, 2011: University receives e-mail from Benoit apologizing for being out of touch. Benoit writes she had been out of town and would be gone again the next week.
• July 6, 2011: University informed Benoit by e-mail that her complaint had been sent to Bustamante along with a letter detailing the possible university policy violations. It had been held until this date at her request. The university reiterated the importance of seeking more help, including calling police if Benoit ever felt the need. She was also told that Bustamante had been directed by the university to have no contact with her. Benoit was told to inform the university immediately if Bustamante did attempt to contact her.
• July 9, 2011: Benoit e-mails university to say she is out of town until July 13.
• July 14, 2011: University Threat Assessment Team, including Moscow Police Department representative, meets to assess the level of the safety risk for Benoit and others involved in the investigation.
• July 14, 2011: University investigators met with Benoit to review Bustamante’s response and notify her that university investigators would interview Bustamante on July 19. This was considered a high-risk point so recommendation was made she stay somewhere other than her apartment to avoid contact.
• July 22, 2011: University called Benoit to ask where she would be until the start of school. She said she would be in Moscow. University encouraged her to continue to take safety precautions, including contacting MPD.
• August 22, 2011: University met with Benoit to inform her that Bustamante’s last day of employment was August 19. She was cautioned to remain vigilant and get assistance from the police and others if she had any safety concerns. University also encouraged Benoit to remain in contact with university representatives and to take advantage of university support services.
# # #
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.