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home : most recent : region 6 September 25, 2017

8/19/2017 7:10:00 PM
Indiana Public Access Counselor says Paoli schools didn't violate Open Door

Emily Emsberger, Times-Mail

PAOLI —The Indiana Public Access Counselor ruled Friday on a complaint filed against the Paoli Community school board by one of its members, ruling in favor of the board.

Board member Bill McDonald filed a complaint against the school board on July 5 for an executive session that took place June 12 after a special session of the school board. In his complaint, McDonald said he and two other members — Chris Boyer and Peggy Manship — did not attend because the agenda for the session stated they were to discuss job performance evaluations, but McDonald believed that there were none to discuss and did not attend the session. McDonald said in his complaint he also did not attend the session because of the "unethical way the regular session of the board was handled."

McDonald's complaint was that the executive session did not follow the agenda that was published, which would be a violation of the Indiana Open Door Law.

Patrick Shoulders, an attorney from Evansville hired to represent the board during the personnel dispute, argued the board did not violate any access laws because what they did discuss was in accordance with the agenda that was published.

Public Access Counselor Luke Britt said in his decision that the complaint was one of governance, rather than one about abiding by the Open Door Law.

"Outside the parameters of the Open Door Law and other relevant access statutes, a local governing body may conduct its gatherings and take action in any way it sees fit. In my evaluation of the complaint and response, I have not identified any injury to public access or noncompliance with the Open Door Law," Britt wrote. He also noted that no final action took place at the executive session, which would have violated public access laws.

Britt also wrote the crux of the complaint seemed to be McDonald felt like he could not attend the executive session, but the public access counselor said there was no evidence of being left out and McDonald chose not to attend.

Brewster resigned July 10 after being suspended from his position on June 12 — the day of the special meeting and executive session that McDonald sent his complaint about.

In a letter sent to Brewster, dated June 12, reasons listed for suspension and considering his termination were failure to manage the financial affairs of the school corporation in a prudent, reasonable or professional manner, placing the corporation in financial distress; and failure to make satisfactory progress in academic affairs as reflected in standardized test scores, Indiana Department of Education regulatory actions and the absence of a suitable academic plan.

McDonald, Boyer and Manship said throughout the suspension and resignation of Brewster that they had no idea his employment would be in question and that they were intentionally left out of conversations about his suspension. They have all accused the other four members — Lila Tucker, Terry Nicholson, Julie Hopper and Kathy Padgett — of having their minds made up before discussion.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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