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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Daniels Jr., September 11, 2002. Interview R-0320. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

First Amendment lawsuits filed by the <cite>News and Observer</cite>

Daniels remembers some lawsuits the paper filed in order to force the disclosure of public records, including one against Wake Medical Center for concealing details of a settlement with some former employees, and one against North Carolina State University, apparently for concealing information about its men's basketball team.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Daniels Jr., September 11, 2002. Interview R-0320. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KATHLEEN KEARNS:
I went back and looked at my notes after you and I talked on the phone, and I came across an editorial in The News and Observer in February of 1980, and obviously a couple of things have taken place already, but your editorial was, "Officials of Wake Medical Center have circumvented the clear intent of at least two state laws by concealing the terms of their out-of-court settlement with three former emergency room employees." It goes on. Basically, it's bringing up the issue of having records be public. I'd like to hear from you what you remember about the sequence of events. I think that the actual termination of this contract with the emergency room doctors was '78 or '79, and that things went along for a little while before it came to a head.
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
They also had some problems, a little before that, with the guys who did autopsies. What do you call those people?
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
The coroners?
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
Not the coroner. At any rate, my recollection is that they didn't want to have open meetings. They had a fairly contentious board, because I think it was appointed by the county commissioners. Then I think it became sort of a self-perpetuating board.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
There came a point where the board would nominate new members and then go to the county to approve them.
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
Yes. The county commissioners generally approved them. But the hospital started losing money, and the county was having to put more money into it. And I think that's when we started trying to cover it a little bit more. And then they wouldn't give us any records to look at. That's when we sued them, and won the lawsuit.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
The suit went several rounds, is that right?
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
I don't remember. I don't remember how many rounds it had. I think it did go to Supreme Court. I think we won it at each level and they kept appealing.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
I think that's right.
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
I believe that's correct. You know, we didn't have a choice. We didn't think we had a choice. I mean, you either had open records or you didn't. And we pretty firmly believed that you should pursue that. At the same time we sued the University of North Carolina also.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Over a similar issue?
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
Over public records.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
And did you win that as well?
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
We won that. One of the suits over at the University of North Carolina had to do with the Valvano case, Jim Valvano, who was coach at N.C. State. And we sued them. They had a stay done, and we wanted to get a copy of the stay, and we sued to get a copy of the stay. We sued the president of the university. And we won that suit and we also won damages. So they had to pay our legal fees, and then we turned around and gave the legal fees back to the university.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
What was the Valvano case? I don't know anything about it.
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
Jim Valvano was coach at N.C. State. A book was coming out about it, accusing State and Valvano of point shaving, of keeping kids in school when they didn't make the grades, two or three other things. The book came out and we had already covered everything there was to cover. And out of all of this brouhaha, it became apparent that none of the basketball players at State had graduated—maybe three out of twenty-five. And yet Valvano was a good coach, but he didn't care a thing in the world about getting the students graduated. And that got to be a big hoorah.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So you sued State?
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
No, we sued the president of the university. The president of the university has responsibility for the system.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
OK, I understand.
FRANK DANIELS, JR.:
So we sued him, who also was a good friend of mine. But that's unrelated.