When UNC-Chapel Hill released Kenneth Wainstein’s report a year ago, it included hundreds of emails and other pieces of evidence in a searchable electronic file. UNC did the same several months later, when the NCAA released its notice of allegations for the case.
But last month, when the university released 215,000 pages of records in the first step toward releasing all 5 million pages obtained by Wainstein for his investigation, they were not put in a searchable format. That meant the public would potentially have to read each page to identify anything significant that the former federal prosecutor may have missed.
UNC estimates the cost to produce these records at $4 million so far, according to records and interviews, making it the biggest and most expensive public records work in the university’s history. But only now, after requests from The News & Observer, has UNC agreed to make those digital records searchable.
Rick White, a UNC spokesman, said in an interview that the university is working to convert the first batch into a searchable format, and as for subsequent batches, “I would anticipate they would be searchable too.” He said the university’s first concern was making sure no information that should be kept private was released.
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In August, the university reported finding within the records more potential NCAA allegations involving Jan Boxill, the former faculty leader who had been a longtime academic counselor to women’s basketball. White said he didn’t know if Bond, Schoeneck & King, the law firm representing UNC in the NCAA case, has the records in a searchable format.
The university has refused numerous requests from the N&O to produce the records related to the additional allegations immediately.
Wainstein had previously told the UNC Board of Governors that his firm had the records in a searchable format to more quickly identify important strings of information. He referred questions about the records to UNC.
White said the task of reviewing and redacting the records of any material protected under privacy laws first fell to Wainstein’s firm, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Firm billings show UNC spent roughly $2.7 million on this effort, with much of that money going to contract attorneys who charged roughly $95 an hour.
White said UNC officials grew worried that Cadwalader’s charges were too costly, and switched to a local firm in August. That firm, University Temporary Services of Raleigh, has more than 30 full-time reviewers working on the records, at a projected $1.1 million cost to UNC.
White said UNC has hired a third firm, Carolina Legal Staffing, for additional document reviewing at a cost of $185,000.
“Of course, final costs won’t be available until the project is completed,” White said in an emailed statement.
In an interview, White said that’s likely to take many months, if not more than a year, before all the records are released. The News & Observer and The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper, made the requests for the records last year.
The N&O, WRAL and other media, as well as rival N.C. State fans, have been converting the first batch of records into searchable formats, turning up more information.
Some UNC supporters have complained about the cost of producing the records. Daren Lucas, UNC’s former ticket operations manager, in a tweet noting the $4 million cost, wrote: “Public schools shouldnt (sic) fund media research.”