The president of the Beatrice Board of Education says he’s disappointed in a Nebraska Attorney General’s opinion that says the board violated open meetings law, but he adds, it’s time to move on. Jim Spangler commented about the opinion, sought following the process used to select the new Superintendent for District 15, Jon Lopez.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie Donley said Spangler and certain board members substituted informal consultation for a formal session of the full board. The opinion says Spangler and board members Tobias Tempelmeyer, Mitch Deines, Lisa Pieper and Steve Winter violated the open meetings act when they discussed and decided official board business in private. That included lining up five votes to approve a contract for the new superintendent, outside of a public meeting.
Spangler says there is a need to protect reputations of people when personnel issues are discussed, but he says the question was raised and the attorney general has answered. Spangler commented on the potential policy changes for the school district board.
The opinion indicates that neither a civil suit, nor criminal prosecution for the violation, is warranted. Donley said there’s nothing to indicate that over nine hours of closed sessions were necessary to protect the public interest, or prevent needless injury to the reputation of an individual.
The opinion says the attorney general understands how important it is for a school district to hire the best individual as superintendent, but that doesn’t let the board to close its meetings when deliberating a candidate’s qualifications. Any embarrassment or discomfort by a superintendent candidate or board member in the process, the opinion states, “is far outweighed by the policy favoring openness in the meetings of a public body.”
Thanks to Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice