RIPLEY, W.Va. — A Circuit Court judge made two rulings in the ongoing media rights case between West Virginia Radio Corporation and multiple defendants, including West Virginia University, during a hearing at the Jackson County Courthouse on Thursday.
Judge Thomas Evans granted in part a motion filed by WVRC to compel discovery of documents from state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s August 2013 investigation into the bidding of West Virginia University’s multi-media rights.
WVU Board of Governors attorney Jeff Wakefield argued that the statements and work product from the AG report were protected under attorney-client privilege. Wakefield ruled WVRC could depose those on the attorney general’s witness list and ask them what they told Morrisey’s office. Evans added that WVRC was not entitled to any communications, strategy or analysis between Morrissey and WVU legal counsel.
WVRC attorney Morgan Hanson countered that WVU effectively waived any attorney-client privilege when they released the report more than a year ago. Hanson contends the defendants have used the Morrissey report as a “sword and shield” on multiple occasions as a basis for their defense.
Evans ordered WVU to produce all factual documents that went into the preparation of the report by the West Virginia attorney general. In his ruling, Evans said allowing WVU to shield would “eviscerate” the law of privilege in West Virginia.
Evans also heard arguments over separate motions filed by both WVU and IMG College seeking to open WVRC’s financial records for all income associated with West Virginia University radio broadcasts originated by, or carried by, West Virginia Radio Corporation networks and stations for a broad period dating back to pre-2005.
Wakefield proposed that WVRC’s motive in filing the lawsuit was based more on lost revenues than the public good. Hanson replied that this was a case entirely about public corruption and that West Virginia Radio was not suing for lost income.
Hanson argued that providing competing media companies with detailed financial information regarding WVRC’s client agreements and broadcast contracts would be improper and had no bearing on the case considering the radio company did not seek revenue-loss damages. He said WVRC only sought compensation for the expenses incurred in preparing a bid for the flawed first request for proposal that was abandoned after Morrisey issued his report, and that WVRC also be reimbursed for attorney fees and for contributions made by the firm to the West Virginia University Foundation.
Evans ordered WVRC to provide limited financial reports regarding WVU broadcasts, but did not proceed further with the broad financial requests of WVU and IMG.
Additional arguments were heard during the nearly five-hour hearing regarding a motion for summary judgment by defendants Ralph and Richard Ballard asking to be excused from the case. Evans took the information and arguments under advisement but made no ruling.