The University of Virginia has turned over thousands of pages of documents involving the work of former professor Michael Mann to the American Tradition Institute Environmental Law Center.
In a statement, the center announced Thursday that it had received a 4.3-megabyte disk that contains 3,827 pages as the result of Freedom of Information Act request.
But these are not the same documents that several groups are fighting to prevent U-Va. from releasing because they say it should be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
U-Va., which has fought requests to release documents to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), will release a second batch of documents next month as part of a May agreement.
“The real test will be the second phase,’’ said Michael Halpern, project manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In January, the center asked the university to turn over documents, including e-mails Mann exchanged with other scientists while employed at the university, on behalf of Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) and two other state residents.
The group seeks documents nearly identical to those sought by Cuccinelli using a civil subpoena. The university has been fighting Cuccinelli's demand in court, arguing that his inquiry violates Mann's academic freedom and that the attorney general has singled out Mann because he does not agree with his research findings that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming.
Cuccinelli says he wants the documents to explore whether a fraud investigation is warranted. He is using subpoena power given to him under Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, which empowers the attorney general to investigate instances in which public employees misuse tax dollars.
A judge in September set aside Cuccinelli's civil investigative demand because it did not state objective reasons why Cuccinelli believed fraud might have taken place. He rewrote the request and remains in litigation with the university over the issue.
Mann, who left the university in 2005 and now works at Pennsylvania State University, has been cleared of wrongdoing in several previous inquiries into his work. His research findings have also been upheld by other scientists.
Last week, the National Science Foundation cleared Mann of misconduct. It is the sixth — and final — investigation into Mann’s work. Others were conducted by Penn State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Inspector General’s office.