Judge won't dismiss media lawsuit over fired UNC staffers

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A coalition of North Carolina news organizations - including ABC11 - and the state's flagship public university faced off in court Friday over records related to the school's long-running academic fraud scandal.

The two sides are battling because the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hasn't disclosed the nine campus employees fired or disciplined for their roles in a scheme allowing fake classes and generous grades over nearly two decades.

The employees were disciplined in the wake of Kenneth Wainstein's report on academic fraud at the school.

UNC spent more than $3 million on the 130-page report which showed a pattern of fraud that spanned 18 years.

The report showed 3,100 students were enrolled in so-called "paper classes" with the African and Afro-American Studies department that required little or no work. Investigators said student athletes were steered toward those classes to boost their grades and eligibility.

ABC11, the Associated Press, and 8 other companies filed the lawsuit to compel the release of the names last month.

North Carolina's public records law requires state agencies, including public universities, to make employee records available. That includes records regarding their dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons. Campus officials have said the disclosure isn't required until after an employee has finished appealing the decision.

After hearing arguments, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens refused to dismiss the case and ordered both sides into mediation.

Associated Press reporter Emery P. Dalesio contributed to this report.

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