The Fresno County Superior Court has ruled that identities of donors who made an anonymous gift by leasing a suite in the Save Mart Center are a matter of public record. Lawyers for The Fresno Bee contended that private donor records should fall under the Public Records Act. As defined under federal tax law, the California State University Association is a non-profit private charity whose purpose is to advance the educational mission of the university.
The Dec. 19 ruling by Judge Franklin P. Jones focused specifically on suiteholders in the planned Save Mart Center. Of the 32 suiteholders, only a few requested that their gifts be kept confidential. The University felt it should honor donor wishes. This ruling does not apply to general donors to the University Foundation, which is the repository for all private gifts. However, the privacy issues at stake motivated the University to resist the demand for donor identities.
“The ability of a donor to remain anonymous is a fundamental cornerstone of charity,” said John Melikian, lawyer for the non-profit California State University, Fresno Association. “Concerns about privacy, whether it’s your medical records or your personal charitable donations, relate to everyone in society.”
The Association and the University are reviewing the court ruling and considering other remedies that will maintain the privacy of its donors out of respect to their request for anonymity. In accordance with the ruling by the Superior Court, donor names will not be released pending legal review.