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School Board Update –– Closed Session Jan. 7, Open Session Jan. 13

By Sue Curry Jones

Last week on Thursday, Jan. 7, the Ava R-I School Board held a closed session meeting.

The true purpose of the meeting is unknown, but it is thought the session was to tender an offer to Ava’s bus route owners for the purchase of their individual routes.

However, this alleged motive is unconfirmed.

On Monday, the Herald asked for school board voting actions from Superintendent Dr. Nancy Lawler. The request was denied under the following statement: “We are not disclosing any details at this time regarding our closed session meet­ing Jan. 7, 2016. …. At this time, I am not disclosing even who the parties involve.”

In her written statement, Lawler cites a section of the Sunshine Law, which protects “legal actions, causes of action or litigation” that involve privileged communication between parties and their attorneys.

And, that clause would apply if court proceedings had been filed, and the need for protection easily verified.

According to law cited by a Sunshine Law attorney, if the board wants to hide under this provision, the board must prove the burden accordingly –– “the governmental body should properly bear a heavy burden of demonstrating both a substantial likelihood that litigation may occur and a clear nexus between the doc­ument sought and the anticipation litigation.” In simpler words, there must be a clear threat.

Also, another point which stands to negate the viability of this closed session, is the documented fact the bus route owners have been deemed a budget item.  Administrators have consistently espoused this issue as a cost-based budget problem, and by doing so, the expenditure is an open session topic.  There is case law that establishes “that if a record is both an open record and a closed record, the court will find it’s an open record.”

Nonetheless, the administration is not releasing details today, but may comply at a later date

In addition, as the Herald went to press Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Ava R-I Board also convened at 5:00 p.m. for another session.

The posted agenda designates the meeting as a study session, with several topics listed, including a Sunshine Law presentation, a video on parliamentary procedure, and an overview of fiscal year 2017 budget numbers by administrators. Those details will appear next week.