Archive for Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Opinion sought on school board action

Violation of Open Act may have occurred

September 5, 2007


— The Tonganoxie Mirror has written a letter to the Leavenworth County attorney seeking an investigation to determine whether the Tonganoxie school board violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act at a special meeting last week.

At the board's special meeting Aug. 28, members met in five consecutive executive sessions for the stated purpose of discussing matters of attorney-client privilege and personnel matters of nonelected personnel. After the three and a half hours of closed-door sessions ended, board members returned to open session and voted, without comment, to accept an organizational chart to "streamline operations and improve communications."

In the letter, Mirror editor John Taylor asked County Attorney Frank Kohl to investigate the action as a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

"The board appears, through its actions, to have violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act by discussing a policy matter rather than individually identifiable employees in the course of the evening's executive sessions," Taylor wrote.

Mike Merriam, a Topeka-based attorney with more than 30 years of experience in media law, said it would be difficult to fathom that the board did not discuss and devise the new organizational chart - which is a policy matter and not a personnel matter - during the closed session.

The Open Meetings Act authorizes closed or executive sessions for 13 specific instances. Attorney General Paul Morrison and Assistant Attorney General Theresa Marcel Bush prepared an annotated guide to the law when Morrison took office in January. In it, they wrote this about executive sessions called to discuss nonelected personnel:

"To discuss an individual, not groups. : The purpose of this exception is to protect the privacy interests of individuals. Discussion of consolidation of departments or overall salary structure is not a proper topic."

Merriam said the nonelected personnel allowance for closed meetings was included in the law to protect the privacy of an individual employee. He surmised the board went beyond discussing an individual in the executive session last week.

"When they come out (from executive sessions) and OK an organizational chart, that has nothing to do with protecting the privacy of an individual," he said.

In the letter to Kohl, Taylor wrote, "Because of the public interest in issues surrounding the Tonganoxie public schools, The Mirror newspaper requests your office commence an investigation into the meeting to determine whether any violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act occurred and, if so, to rectify the matter by forcing the board to divulge its discussions in open forum."


catblu 10 years, 7 months ago

What a surprise! Another problem in the Tonganoxie school district. The first week of school this year, it was the superintendent screaming at a school employee so much, the employee called 911 and the police came to the school. And the superintendents punishment was??? NOTHING. In past years the school district lost a federal lawsuit over out of control harassment. Last year parents complained about sports hazing their children endured while on the football team. The taxpayers had a chance to vote in a new school board but chose to keep the same board and now everyone is "surprised" the schools problems are continuing? Todays news story is just another step in the lack of discipline in the district. Why should the students follow the rules? The principals and coachs haven't. Why should the principals and coachs follow the rules? The superintendent dosen't. Whys should the superintendent follow the rules? The school board dosen't. The taxpayers need to get ready for another long expensive year!

anonymous2 10 years, 7 months ago

I thought Fredonia was the only school with a Superintendent & school board like this. The Superintendents both must have graduated from the school of bullying. The school board there thinks they are still competing for class President and the most popular wins. They even gave a waiver to someone to drive a bus with one-eye. Can't even pass a physical but he lives next door to a board member, went to school with board members and has a wife that works in the board office. Safety is irrelevant

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