WASHINGTON – The University of Maryland’s independent student newspaper and its parent company sued top university officials this week to try to gain information on parking tickets given to members of the men’s basketball team, other students and faculty.
The suit, filed Wednesday by the Diamondback, Maryland Media Inc. and former sports editor David J. Murray, requests the ticket information under the Maryland Public Information Act. University President William Kirwan, Athletic Director Deborah Yow and David Allen, director of campus parking, were named as defendants.
The Diamondback used the lawsuit, filed in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, as a last resort to gain access to the information, said Diamondback editor Jayson Blair. Editors hope the university will release the records before the case goes to court, he said.
“We hope it doesn’t make it there,” Blair said. “But if it does, I hope we win.”
Editors are particularly interested in reviewing the ticket records for the men’s basketball team and its coach, Gary Williams, the suit says.
“We believe the public has a strong interest” in seeing whether or not members are given special treatment, Blair said.
The Diamondback has been seeking information on the team since February, when campus administrators denied the paper access to parking records. Interest was sparked after Duane Simpkins, senior co-captain of the men’s basketball team, served a three-game suspension last season for using an illegal loan to pay at least $7,000 in parking tickets.
Murray, now night production manager at the Diamondback, requested information on Simpkins’s fines as well as fines for other members of the team but was denied access “to at least a number of the requests for information,” the lawsuit states.
Blair called the dispute “a difference of interpretation.” He said university officials believe parking tickets are protected as part of a student’s personal record but the Diamondback “believes the records are public information.” Allen and university spokesman Roland King declined comment Friday until the university officially receives the lawsuit. Kirwan and Yow did not return phone calls. -30-