Jan. 13—A formal complaint has been filed with the Indiana Public Access counselor alleging the Vigo County School Corp. violated the state Open Door Law when it kept elementary consolidation committee meetings closed to the public.
Meadows parent Brian C. Payne filed the formal complaint on behalf of those opposed to the closing/repurposing of Meadows Elementary. The school board approved the closing/repurposing by a vote of 5-2 Monday.
In the complaint, Payne requested priority status "so that we can have the chance to take legal action before the closure occurs, which would be difficult to reverse. The administration was already visiting and preparing schools that would be accepting our students even prior to the voting."
Meadows parent Kyle Kershaw already obtained an informal opinion from the public access counselor. The next step is to seek an advisory opinion.
According to Luke Britt, Indiana public access counselor, "It will not be legally binding; only advisory. The school would not have to recognize an advisory opinion as authority, but it would give the complainants the standing to sue for injunctive relief, civil penalties, and to receive attorney fees and court costs."
In the earlier informal opinion, the public access counselor said it appears the elementary consolidation committee that recommended the closure/repurposing of Meadows Elementary was subject to the state's Open Door Law.
If so, and the district failed to provide notice of those meetings, the district violated the the state's open meetings law.
The Vigo County School Corp. maintains it did not violate the Open Door Law.
At Monday's school board meeting, Jon Mayes, school board counsel and attorney with Bose, McKinney and Evans, said the public access counselor's informal opinion "assumes some facts that are not true."
Committees the school board creates for input to the board are subject to Open Door, Mayes said. However, other committees or task forces created to provide input directly to the superintendent and administration "are not subject to the Open Door law."
Mayes on Tuesday said that "because the committee was appointed by Dr. Rob Haworth (or his designee, Dr. Christi Fenton) and gave the administration team guidance, the Open Door Law does not consider that committee to be a 'governing body.' The board of school trustees did not appoint committee members."
In the informal opinion, Britt wrote, "The task force appears to be a direct offshoot of the School Board. If so, there can be no question that the task force is a governing body subject to the Open Door Law. Therefore, to the extent the task force meets behind closed doors without the requisite notice being posted, it will be violating the Open Door Law."
The public access counselor has already notified Mayes; the school board has until Feb. 1 to respond.