Lawyer: D161 Board Did Not Violate State's Open Meetings Act
The Summit Hill school board met the requirements for posting the agenda of a Sept. 17 special meeting, the district's attorney said Friday.
The Summit Hill School District 161 Board did not violate the state's Open Meetings Act when it called a Sept. 17 special meeting, said the district's attorney at Friday's board meeting.
Friday's session was a continuation of the Wednesday, Sept. 28, meeting, which was recessed so the board could get a legal opinion about a possible violation.
At the Sept. 28 meeting, board member Sean William Doyle said he thought the Sept. 17 special meeting violated the state's Open Meetings Act because the agenda was posted online less than 48 hours in advance. According to a screenshot of the PDF posting provided by Doyle, the agenda was published online at 11:34 a.m. Sept. 15, and the meeting was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Sept. 17. Doyle also said district policy was violated because he was informed of the meeting less than 48 hours before it.
The agenda, however, was posted on the door of the district's administrative offices by 11:30 a.m. Sept. 15, following criteria set by the act, said Scott Nemanich, the attorney representing the district. Also, the time the Sept. 17 meeting actually started eliminated any violations of the Open Meetings Act, he added.
"The minutes of the meeting show you didn't begin at 11:30 on that Saturday," Nemanich said. "You began at 11:40. You're beyond the 48 hours. ... Thus, while the timing is exceedingly close to the bare minimum required, it does appear that the technical legal requirements of ... the (Open Meetings Act) were met."
Doyle also cited another example of a special meeting agenda not being posted for at least 48 hours beforehand. According to a screenshot of the PDF for a July 7 special meeting, the agenda was not posted on the district's website until 7:34 a.m. on July 6.
Nemanich said there wasn't enough information to determine whether the July 7 agenda was posted properly. Interim Superintendent Barb Rains said a screenshot of the agenda showed it was created within the allotted 48 hours. However, Tammy Miller, the superintendent's secretary responsible for posting the agenda, said she couldn't remember when she placed the agenda on the administration offices door, Rains added.
"Bottom line is, Mr. Doyle has a right to be concerned, but if we don't have anyone to say it wasn't posted, then I don't have any evidence it wasn't posted," Nemanich said.
The July 7 special meeting approved the hiring of Jason Isdonas, the new kindergarten principal at Dr. Julius Rogus School, while the Sept. 17 special meeting created a new assistant superintendent position, which was filled at Friday's meeting with the board hiring Jim Martin.
Going forward, Nemanich said the board should rework its policy when it comes to posting special meeting agendas.
"While I understand that things happen, in the future, let's not even get close to the line," he said. "Instead of 48 (hours), I want 49, minimum. Things happen, but let's try to make it 49 hours, so there's nothing close."
Doyle, however, said he disagreed with parts of Nemanich's evaluation and told the attorney he might seek his own legal opinion, paying for it out of his pocket. After the meeting, Doyle said he still needed time to digest the information Nemanich presented the board before he would make a decision on hiring his own lawyer to see if the board violated the Open Meetings Act.