Ashley Moody sues ACC over FSU media rights disclosure

by | Apr 25, 2024

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has filed a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference, alleging that the ACC violated the Florida Public Records Act by refusing to release media rights contracts related to Florida State University.

Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) on Thursday, alleging violations of the Florida Public Records Act due to the ACC’s refusal to release certain media rights contracts involving Florida State University (FSU).

Filed in the Circuit Court of Leon County, the lawsuit seeks a writ of mandamus — a court order that compels a government official, agency, court, or other public authority to perform a mandatory or purely ministerial duty they are legally obligated to complete — to compel the ACC to disclose the contracts, which detail the broadcasting rights for FSU’s athletic events. The legal action argues that these documents are public records since they pertain to the official business of FSU, a public university.

“Under secret media rights contracts located somewhere in the North Carolina headquarters of the ACC, the fate of hundreds of millions of dollars of a Florida public university is written,” the lawsuit reads. “The Office of the Attorney General requested these media rights contracts; the ACC refused. The ACC would not produce a single word of the contracts, including terms already disclosed publicly (including by the ACC itself), the signature blocks, dates, the numbers of paragraphs, recitals or even the numbers of pages.”

The lawsuit further contends that the documents, even those developed and kept by a private organization, qualify as public records if they are in possession of a public agency’s representatives and are utilized for public business purposes. Moreover, the suit asserts that the presence of documents within a private organization does not strip them of their public nature if they pertain to issues of public interest.

The complaint also highlights the ACC’s exclusive control over the contracts, preventing any reproduction or external access, which the suit claims necessitates FSU officials to travel to the ACC’s North Carolina headquarters to view them, forcing FSU to incur public expenses.

Moody’s office asserts that the ACC’s refusal to produce any part of these documents, despite partial disclosures in other legal contexts, breaches the Florida Public Records Act. The ACC has countered, labeling the documents as trade secrets and arguing that they are exempt from disclosure.

“The ACC is asking a state entity—Florida State University—to potentially pay and lose more than a half a billion dollars but is refusing to produce the documents related to that outrageous price tag. We sent a public records request to the ACC in January, but they failed to fully comply. We are taking legal action against the ACC for wrongfully withholding these important public records.”

If successful, the lawsuit could mandate the ACC to provide the requested documents and affirm their status as public records, potentially setting a precedent for how athletic conferences disclose information involving public universities.

Moody’s office is also seeking to recover the costs of the lawsuit, including attorneys’ fees and other expenses.


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