University denies The Post’s FOIA request concerning John Beaghan’s retirement

The+Oakland+Center+and+South+Foundation+Hall+with+Elliott+Tower+in+the+distant+background.+The+campus+community+members+inhabiting+these+spaces+will+be+impacted+by+current+turnover+happening+in+upper+levels+of+the+administration.

Maggie Willard

The Oakland Center and South Foundation Hall with Elliott Tower in the distant background. The campus community members inhabiting these spaces will be impacted by current turnover happening in upper levels of the administration.

Jeff Thomas, Editor-in-Chief

Oakland University has denied entirely The Post’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents pertaining to former Vice President for Finance and Administration John Beaghan’s Oct. 22 exit from the university.

On Nov. 5, I sent a FOIA request asking for:

“The following documents pertaining to former Vice President for Finance and Administration John Beaghan’s retirement: Internal memos and emails in the lead up to and following Beaghan’s meeting with President Pescovitz on Friday, October 22nd that pertain to that meeting, any documents, memos, or emails pertaining to a non-disclosure agreement Beaghan signed in accordance with his retirement, and the non-disclosure agreement Beaghan signed in accordance with his retirement.”

After the university failed to respond to the request within the five business days that they are legally obligated to do so in, I sent a follow up email at 11:45 a.m. on Nov. 16 saying, “We’re past the five business days. I need an update on this request.

The university responded seven minutes later at 11:52 a.m. with a letter notifying an extension saying, “This letter is notice extending the period during which Oakland University will respond to your request to Dec. 1, 2021, to allow the University to determine whether non-exempt, public records that may be responsive to your request exist and to compile same.”

On Thursday, Nov. 18, the university sent their response denying my request. 

Your request for “….Internal memos and emails in the lead up to and following Beaghan’s meeting with President Pescovitz on Friday, October 22nd that pertain to that meeting…” is denied, as such information or records is subject to the attorney-client privilege.

Your request for “any documents, memos, or emails pertaining to a non-disclosure agreement Beaghan signed in accordance with his retirement, and the non-disclosure agreement Beaghan signed in accordance with his retirement.” is denied. I hereby certify that no public records in the possession of Oakland University responsive to your request exist.

The Post requested a statement from President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz concerning the denial of our FOIA request, as well as any additional statement providing transparency about Beaghan’s exit from OU. As of writing, there’s been no response to that request.

A longtime VP, Beaghan was going on 17 years with OU before his departure in October. His abrupt retirement stood out as unusual, as it is typical for someone in that high up of an administrative position to give multiple months’ worth of notice before leaving so a proper transition in leadership can occur.

Following his exit, the university immediately removed his staff page. As of writing, OU Magazine articles including him have been reduced to one. The university never released a formal statement concerning his retirement until The Post requested one. That statement read:

“John Beaghan announced his retirement from Oakland University on Friday, October 22. We wish John all the best in his future endeavors. Plans for a national search will be announced in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Tom LeMarbe has agreed to serve as Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration.”

It is our understanding that the search for Beaghan’s replacement has begun and is being led by recently hired Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Britt Rios-Ellis. Also worth noting is that, as of last week, Jim Hargett is serving as Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration.