4-H Road Com. v. W.Va. Univ. Foundation was a case before the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in 1989 concerning the definition of public agency.
This case established that the West Virginia University Foundation is not a public body because it was created by private individuals and its funding comes from private sources.
- The West Virginia University Foundation was founded in 1954 by eleven private citizens for the purposes of promoting and raising money for the University of West Virginia. The Foundation manages only the donations made to the Foundation and have no role in managing the University's donations. The board of directors is composed of 38 private citizens and the only official University representative is the president of the University who is present at the request of the Foundation. The Foundation owns its own facilities, pays its employees and provides benefits to them.
- In August, 1977, 4-h Road Community Association submitted a records request to the West Virginia University Foundation for information relating to coal leases owned by the Foundation.
- The request was denied, with the Foundation arguing that it was a private corporation and thus not subject to the act.
- The Association filed suit, seeking to compel the release of the records.
- The trial court ruled in favor of the Foundation and the Association appealed the decision.
Ruling of the court
The trial court determined that the Foundation was neither created by a public body nor funded by public funds and was thus not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court, ruling in favor of the Foundation. The court first established that this case was sufficiently different from Queen v. W. Va. University Hospitals so as to warrant a different ruling. The court determined that because the Foundation was incorporated by private individuals and no legislative statute encouraging the Foundation preceded its creation, it was consequentially not a public body with regard to that definition. Further, the court determined that the funding for the Foundation came primarily from private individuals and the lease of University land to the Foundation was construed so as to benefit the university and did not constitute a manner of funding. Based on these determinations, the court ruled in favor of the Foundation, rendering the documents exempt.