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Murray State University, WPSD-TV reach settlement agreement in open records lawsuit

Murray State Digital Media

Murray State University and WPSD-TV have agreed to a settlement in response to an open records lawsuit filed last year by the Paducah-based news station.

The two parties reached an agreement, according to court records filed on Wednesday, to settle a lawsuit the television station filed in 2023 stemming from an investigation into the relationship between Murray State administrators and WKMS, an NPR member station. WKMS is licensed to Murray State University and operates on the university’s campus, and WKMS staff members are employed through the public university.

According to a settlement agreement between the school and WPSD, Murray State will pay the television news station $42,500 to cover legal fees. In addition, Murray State agreed to pay $45,000 per year in 2024 and 2025 to advertise with WPSD. That agreement also stipulates that Murray State would not withdraw its advertising spending with other publications owned by Paxton Media Group, which also owns WPSD.

In February, the television station filed a motion asking for over $400,000 in statutory penalties and legal fees.

In a statement, Murray State Executive Director of Marketing and Communication Shawn Touney said:

“Murray State University and WPSD mutually reached an agreement regarding the open records dispute which has been pending since March 2023. The parties mutually agreed to resolve the pending issues without further litigation. WPSD has also agreed to dismiss its pending lawsuit against the University. Murray State looks forward to moving forward in a positive direction.”

WPSD News Director Perry Boxx said he is pleased that the parties were able to reach an agreement.

“I’m grateful for the extraordinary work done by our attorney’s [sic] Rick Adams and Michael Abate. Amye Bensenhaver, co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition also provided this newsroom and me personally with advice, support and encouragement which is deeply appreciated,” Boxx said in a statement.

WPSD General Manager Bill Evans said the agreement is a “mutually beneficial settlement that allows Murray State to resume its professional relationship with the TV station and gain the marketing value associated with a two-year advertising plan.”


In 2022, the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission accused former circuit court judge Jamie Jameson of using his position to attempt to silence WKMS reporters. That prompted WPSD to submit an open records request for communications involving Jameson, MSU President Bob Jackson, Provost Tim Todd, College of Business Dean David Eaton, and former WKMS station manager Chad Lampe, regarding a separate open records request WKMS reporters had previously filed involving Jameson. WPSD also requested communications between several current and former WKMS employees and other Murray State employees regarding WKMS News.

Murray State at first fully denied the second part of the October request. In November 2022, it provided 31 emails in response to the first part of the request; however, many of them were redacted, citing numerous exemptions under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

After WPSD appealed the records denial to former Attorney General Daniel Cameron, his office ruled in February 2023 that Murray State violated the Open Records Act by withholding an email containing a statement describing past events because none of the claimed exemptions applied to that email. Additionally, Cameron’s office ruled that the university violated the act when it denied as “unreasonably burdensome” a request the attorney general’s office said sufficiently described the records the station was seeking.

WPSD also filed another open records request in November 2022 requesting emails and texts about WKMS between Jackson, Todd, Lampe, Eaton, Board of Regents members and other administrators sent between October 2020 and July 2022.

In March 2023, WPSD filed a lawsuit in Calloway County Circuit Court, accusing the university of “willfully defying” the state’s Open Records Act. Boxx said the station’s reporters believed the university “continued to withhold information and made illegal redactions from documents” that were released.

In February, Circuit Court Judge John Atkins, who was specially assigned to the case, issued a summary judgment ruling that Murray State misused or misapplied several open records exemptions and a “near categorical redaction scheme ‘at odds with existing law.’” Atkins ordered the university to comply with WPSD’s request and only redact “purely private or personal information” like phone numbers and other personal descriptors that weren’t involved with the lawsuit.

Attorneys for WPSD requested over $400,000 from Murray State in statutory penalties and legal fees following that ruling. In response, MSU Board of Regents Chair Leon Owens said in a statement in March the university had made “good faith efforts” to respond to the local television station’s open records requests, which he said ultimately produced over 1,000 pages of responsive records. He also argued that Murray State took no actions in “willful disregard” of the law, and said WPSD was not entitled to fees and penalties under the Open Records Act, “let alone fees and penalties in the egregious amount sought.”

Editor’s note: WKU Public Radio News Director Kevin Willis edited this article. WKMS News Director Derek Operle, whose records were requested as part of WPSD-TV’s open records request to Murray State University in October 2022, did not take part in the editorial process of this story. 

Hannah Saad is the Assistant News Director for WKMS. Originally from Michigan, Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in news media from The University of Alabama in 2021. Hannah moved to western Kentucky in the summer of 2021 to start the next chapter of her life after graduation. Prior to joining WKMS in March 2023, Hannah was a news reporter at The Paducah Sun. Her goal at WKMS is to share the stories of the region from those who call it home. Outside of work, Hannah enjoys exploring local restaurants, sports photography, painting, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.
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