An e-mail withheld by Missouri Southern from an open-records request made by The Chart but obtained from an anonymous source shows that the proposed medical school initiative with Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences has been in doubt since at least February.

The e-mail, from the president of KCUMB, Danny Weaver, to University President Bruce Speck, is dated Feb. 25 and expresses doubt that a proposed partnership with Southern would move forward.

“Speaking candidly, if a vote were taken today, it would fail!!,” Weaver wrote in the message.

The Chart requested all e-mail correspondence between Speck and Weaver and between Speck and Karen Pletz, the former president of KCUMB, who was fired in December, for the last two years. The request was acknowledged by University officials on March 15, and the documents were turned over to The Chart on April 7.

The Chart received a copy of the Feb. 25 e-mail from Weaver to Speck from an anonymous source this week. The e-mail was not included in documents provided by Southern although it falls within the scope of the open records request. Southern officials said any e-mail correspondence relating to contract negotiations were withheld.

Weaver confirmed the authenticity of the message by phone on Wednesday.

“That’s an accurate e-mail,” Weaver said. “I sent that to Mr. Speck.”

Weaver’s e-mail was a response to a message sent from Speck on Feb. 24. In that message, Speck asked for an update on the partnership to take to the Steering Committee, which was meeting the next day. Weaver responded at 6:18 a.m. Feb. 25 and said he had brought KCUMB’s board of trustees up to speed on the proposal, but that there was “no incentive to act on this issue” until he had provided a full report to the trustees.

“Most comments have been that maybe we shouldn’t be doing anything outside of KC till we get our current situation resolved,” Weaver wrote. “As you might imagine, we have a lot on our plate right now.”

Weaver then told Speck his full report on the proposal would come during the April 20 board meeting.

On Wednesday Weaver told The Chart he couldn’t comment on whether the board held the same sentiment heading into its meeting Tuesday.

“I don’t know what their opinion is based on the changes in the climate,” he said.

KCUMB is currently involved in litigation with Pletz.

Weaver also said Speck would not be attending the meeting on Tuesday, and that there was no room on the agenda for Southern to comment on the proposal next week. He added that another board meeting would be held in two to three weeks, during which Southern officials will have an opportunity to present their side.

“It will be only our opinion and our side of what we view things as where our university stands,” Weaver said of the Tuesday meeting.

Southern could partner with different school

Speck told the Faculty Senate on March 1 that Southern was considering partnering with another university if KCUMB opted out of the partnership. He said that decision was made under the guidance of the Steering Committee, which met the day of Weaver’s e-mail.

“We’d like them to be clear and say, ‘Yes, we are planning on moving ahead, let’s do it,’ or, ‘No, we’re not, let’s don’t do it,'” Speck said. “I do not think it would be helpful for them to say, ‘Well, we’re not sure,’ because there are timing issues here. We’d like to get a very clear picture of what they’d like to do.”

Speck wouldn’t list any specific schools that might be options if KCUMB decides not to pursue the branch campus in Joplin, but said the Steering Committee had “kicked around a lot of ideas.”

Sunshine Law

Jean Maneke, an attorney with the Missouri Press Association, said intentional withholding of the document without an exception would constitute a violation of the law.

After reviewing the e-mail, Maneke called The Chart and said that it was “probably exempt” under the Sunshine Law. Maneke added that the e-mail, as obtained and verified by The Chart, was publishable under the law.

University spokesperson Rod Surber said the e-mail was withheld on the advice of University counsel.

Speck, through Surber, said he had no comment on the message.