The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.


Bonnie Meyer, former Director of LGBTQ Programs and Services at NKU, received a $75,000 settlement from the university in January 2022,

NKU withholds details over $75k settlement to former LGBTQ services director

June 22, 2023

NKU entered into a $75,000 “confidential agreement” with former Director of LGBTQ Programs and Services Bonnie Meyer on Jan. 20, 2022.

The agreement referenced an Oct. 12, 2021 demand letter brought by Meyer regarding the search process for the Center for Student Inclusiveness Unit Director position. The Northerner filed an open records request for the contents of this letter, but the university refused to provide it.

As part of the agreement, Meyer resigned from her position and agreed to release NKU from future legal repercussions. 

On April 28, 2023, The Northerner filed an open records request for:

  • All documentation related to a settlement bridged between Bonnie Meyer and the university 
  • All communication between the involved parties leading/related to the settlement bridged between Bonnie Meyer and the university 
  • All documentation related to any investigation brought about by or following the complaint/settlement concerning Bonnie Meyer

The Office of Legal Affairs and General Counsel responded to the request on May 5, providing the final settlement agreement between Meyer and NKU. The agreement is included at the end of the article.

NKU withheld communication between Meyer and the university surrounding the settlement, which includes settlement demands, proposals, counter-proposals and draft agreements exchanged by the legal counsel for the involved parties. The university’s legal office stated that such correspondences are preliminary records and as such are exempt from disclosure to the public under a Kentucky statute.

Regarding The Northerner’s request for documentation of any investigation brought about by the settlement, legal affairs produced no responsive records.

The Northerner attempted on multiple occasions to obtain the demand letter, all of which were denied by the university.

According to an email from Grant Garber, vice president of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, NKU “did not adopt the former employee’s allegations or legal position in deciding to enter the settlement at issue.”

Garber emphasized that the agreement is a “compromise of a disputed claim” and that “NKU and releasees deny and disclaim any liability to Meyer and by entering into this agreement intend merely to avoid litigation.”

The Northerner reasoned why it felt the demand letter should be released once more on June 20, citing an opinion from the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office. In December 2016, former Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear cited in an opinion that demands were not subject to disclosure when they were not adopted, referenced or included in a government agency’s final action. On page one of Meyer’s agreement, her demand letter is referenced twice. 

Garber responded on June 21, writing that NKU sees a difference between a “short reference to the fact the demand letter was sent” and “adoption by NKU of the demand letter as the basis for its settlement.”

“NKU will not be producing the demand letter,” the vice president stated.

This stance was disputed by Michael Abate, attorney for The Northerner and Kentucky Press Association.

“It’s absurd to suggest that a demand that you have cited in an agreement is not incorporated into the final action,” Abate said. 

The media attorney went on to say that case law was clear–a demand does not need to be expressly cited in order to be incorporated into a final decision. If a demand is part of the reasoning for a settlement, once the settlement is adopted a status of “preliminary” over any communication no longer applies, Abate said.

“It’s illogical to suggest that the demand letter cited in the agreement that forced the payment of public funds somehow wasn’t part of the decision-making process to pay those funds. That’s absurd,” Abate said. “It’s an argument I don’t think anyone could make with a straight face.”

A confidentiality clause in the document dictates that Meyer and NKU not disclose any information related to the terms and existence of the agreement unless required to do so by law. Additionally, Meyer agreed not to file a lawsuit against NKU or assist in any other legal action against the university. The former director was also required to delete or destroy all information belonging to NKU or related to her more than eight-year employment at the university.

In an interview with The Northerner, Meyer said she was unable to speak on the agreement.

Abate took issue with the confidentiality section, calling it “illegal” under state law. 

“The Kentucky Supreme Court has long ruled that when you have the payment of public funds to settle allegations, you can’t have confidentiality in that. Any confidentiality clause is just illegal, null and void,” Abate said, citing the 2010 Kentucky Supreme Court case Central Kentucky News-Journal v. George

According to the ruling in this supreme court case, “[A] confidentiality clause reached by agreement of the parties … cannot in and of itself create an inherent right to privacy superior and exempt from the statutory mandate for disclosure contained in the Open Records Act.”

When asked for any university comment regarding the settlement, a university spokesperson provided this statement: “NKU complied with the law, and this matter was resolved well over a year ago.”

Per the final settlement, NKU paid $50,000 to Meyer and $25,000 to her counsel, the law firm Morgan Pottinger McGarvey.

The Northerner reached out to Morgan Pottinger McGarvey requesting Meyer’s demand letter or any comment on the agreement. Thomas Coffey, Meyer’s attorney and shareholder in Morgan Pottinger McGarvey, responded in an email, “Unfortunately, this experience was very traumatic for Bonnie and she simply wants to move on from it.”

Meyer, who had spent over eight years at NKU’s Office of LGBTQ Programs and Services, officially announced her departure from the university the same day she signed the agreement. Under her direction, NKU was ranked “Best of the Best” LGBTQ-friendly schools in the nation in 2020. She is currently the co-chair of NKY Pride Center.

NKU’s Center for Student Inclusiveness Director position remains vacant.

Meyer settlement

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