EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University is refusing to say why its assistant police chief has been placed on leave.
We first told you about Valerie O'Brien on Thursday. She's the leader of the department's Field Services Bureau. She's also married to Detective JJ Bradoc, who was placed on leave February 1st. MSU won't comment on that either.
MSU has been criticized for not having much transparency since the Larry Nassar scandal broke and this is no exception. Police Captain Doug Monette told FOX 47 News the department "isn't commenting on personal matters." It's again raising questions about a lack of transparency from a taxpayer-funded university.
"People need to realize that there are legitimate privacy concerns when it comes to certain actions. Employees have privacy rights," Cooley Law School Professor Mark Dotson said.
Dotson says exemptions in Michigan's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law allow MSU to refuse to release information.
"When it comes to personnel matters and police officers, office investigations, law enforcement investigations...we have special issues. Because they are specially charged with certain responsibilities," he said.
The law also says universities and governments have to decide if the public interest outweighs other concerns. That's frustrating to MSU students who feel like they're kept in the dark about what happens on campus.
"Of course I want to know as much as possible and I'm sure the students do as well. In the circumstances that MSU can be more transparent, I would like for them to take that route," Vice President for Internal and Administration for ASMSU Mario Kakos said.
Kakos said privacy is important, but transparency is the best way to build up the student body's trust in the university after all that has gone on in the past few years.
"It's hard for students to trust MSU. And of course, there are those situations where a trust gets built up again and you start to second guess or question," Kakos added.
Regardless of the reason for withholding information on the assistant chief, Dotson says the university finds itself in a sticky situation again.
"What Michigan State has to do and what the public needs to understand is there is a balancing test or balancing act that is going on right now. And trying to balance the public's right to see exactly the operations in this particular instance against any internal concerns or goals or protocols or procedures that a department like Michigan State Campus Police may have in this particular case," Dotson said.
Michigan State has also been criticized for taking too long to respond to FOIA requests. The university says it's been overwhelmed by the sheer number of requests since the Nassar story broke.
As a detective, Valerie O'Brien handled the investigation into Amanda Thomashow's sexual assault complaint against former MSU doctor Larry Nassar. We do not know if that has anything to do with why she is on leave.
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