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MCCSC Could Still Face Lawsuit Over Open Door Law Concerns

The search for a new superintendent could result in a lawsuit against the Monroe County Community School Corp.

MCCSC Bus Side

Photo: WFIU News

The man who filed a complaint against the Monroe County Community School Corporation in an attempt to curtail its activities in behind-closed-doors meetings says he may file a lawsuit if the corporation does not change its ways.

The man who filed a complaint against the Monroe County Community School Corporation in an attempt to curtail its activities in behind-closed-doors meetings says he may file a lawsuit if the corporation does not change its ways.  But legal action may do little to change the outcome of the search for an interim superintendent.

Eric Knox contends he filed a complaint with the Indiana Access Counselor to help save the MCCSC school board from itself.  Knox says e-mails went unreturned and MCCSC leaders did not respond to his call to participate in a community forum he organized about how to proceed in the search for an interim replacement for retiring superintendent J.T. Coopman.  So he instead pointed out violations of Indiana’s Open Door Law and sought a legal opinion.  Access Counselor Andrew Kossack agreed with Knox’s complaint, saying the decision to hire former superintendent Tim Hyland on an interim basis should have been done in a public forum.  But Kossack says Knox’s claim rests on two technicalities which he calls “an honest mistake” —  that the corporation’s public notice of the executive session included an improper citation of the Open Door Law and that it was not specific enough about the “personnel issues” it intended to address.  But Kossack says he believes the corporation is working to resolve both issues.  Nonetheless, Knox said he hasn’t ruled out filing a lawsuit to reverse the process and get the corporation to reconsider its practices.

“I’m very much hoping to avoid that, I’m hoping that MCCSC is able to take stock of the situation and come up with proposals for how they will remedy this situation,” Knox said.

Knox said a consultant contacted by the MCCSC pointed out the value of growing candidates from within, rather than hiring external candidates.  Public Access Counselor Andrew Kossack said if Knox does file a suit, it stands a chance of succeeding.

“If the decisions are based on a violation, then they could be overturned later on.  So that’s why the district would be wise to be careful about they proceed from this point,” he said.

But while Kossack said a lawsuit may result in a different process, it probably wouldn’t change the outcome of the original one.  If Knox filed a lawsuit and won, Kossack said Tim Hyland could be removed from his position – temporarily.  To reinstate him, the board would only have to advertise an interview with him in executive session and then vote to approve his hiring in a later public meeting.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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