In this case, it wasn’t the destination, it was the journey that turned out to be the most newsworthy.

An answer to a question that should have been a simple request was the destination: What is the total compensation paid one of Indiana University’s highest-paid employees, Vice President and Athletic Director Fred Glass?

Reporter Michael Reschke arrived at the destination this week, about three months after asking the question in a way that didn’t seem to suit IU. He first was told to make a public records request for Glass’ contract. When that was done, he was told Glass doesn’t have a contract, but rather an employment agreement, which wasn’t available for public release. There’s a third term for the pact between IU and Glass: an appointment letter.

The letter is a signed agreement between Glass and Indiana University President Michael McRobbie that spells out financial details of his employment at IU, a public university for which such financial transactions certainly should be a matter of public record.

It was IU vice president and legal counsel Jacqueline Simmons who finally provided three documents that answered the H-T’s request. She noted the distinction between a contract and an employment letter is that a contract has a specified end date, but the letter represented “a continuing appointment.”

But she added: “His is as close to a contract as you can get without being a contract. It’s a very fine distinction.” That narrow point, which parsed words rather than acknowledged reality, was not reason enough to keep IU employee compensation information from the public, Simmons determined.

In with common sense; out with equivocation.

Steve Key, executive director and legal counsel of the Hoosier State Press Association, was careful not to accuse the university of anything when he made comments to Reschke for his story last week.

But Key did go so far as to note that if a government organization was to discourage “the release of information through the use of technical terms, denying records when they know what the person wants but it wasn’t worded exactly correct,” then that organization would not recognize that a “government agency is the servant of the people, not its master.”

IU, with its slice of public funding and state investment in infrastructure, is considered to be a government agency when it comes to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.

The journey of sorting out the responsibility for sharing the information was more important than the details of the contract/employment agreement/appointment letter, which allows for performance bonuses, deferred compensation, the number of tickets he receives or travel arrangements for his spouse. Glass’ high-profile, high-pressure, high-performance position calls for that kind of lucrative, competitive pay package.

As long as the public has a right to know about it, which was the quest of the simple journey that turned complicated.

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