Indiana

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Judge Throws Out Glenda Ritz’s Lawsuit Against The State Board

State superintendent Glenda Ritz's case against the State Board went before a Marion County judge Tuesday, Nov. 5.

State superintendent Glenda Ritz's case against the State Board went before a Marion County judge Tuesday, Nov. 5.

UPDATED, 5:30 p.m. Eastern — Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz was not authorized to file a lawsuit against members of the State Board of Education, a Marion County judge ruled Friday afternoon.

In throwing the lawsuit out of court, Judge Louis Rosenberg sided with the Indiana Attorney General’s office, whose lawyers contended only they could represent elected state officials in court and that Ritz was therefore out-of-bounds in selecting Department of Education counsel to represent her.

“I hope this puts this issue behind us, and that we can focus on the very important issues facing Indiana’s educational system,” State Board member Gordon Hendry told StateImpact.

Like the oral arguments heard Tuesday, Rosenberg’s decision did not touch on the merits of Ritz’s accusations against State Board members.

With tensions running high between the state superintendent and board members, Ritz says State Board members met in secret, without her, violating the state’s open meetings laws — accusations board members vehemently deny.

“I am disappointed in today’s ruling in concern for all Hoosiers that have their lives affected by unelected boards, particularly those that act, perhaps, in secret,” Ritz said in a prepared statement she read to reporters Friday.

Ritz did not address whether she would pursue other legal options, saying she hadn’t met with the Department’s legal team that day. (She was actually chairing a meeting of the State Board at the moment Rosenberg handed down his ruling.)

Read the judge’s decision here.

Complaint Filed with Public Access Counselor

Meanwhile, four private citizens have filed compliants with Indiana’s Public Access Counselor saying, as Ritz did in her suit, that the board member’s actions constitute a violation of the Open Door law.

Two of those private citizens are former superintendents of public school districts in Indiana — Tony Lux of Merrillville and Ed Eiler of Lafayette — according to William Groth, the Indianapolis attorney who assisted in their filing.

Ritz says State Board members went behind her back to draft a letter to legislative leaders requesting their assistance in calculating letter grades for schools.

Board members deny the accusation. They say the letter was drafted via email, which does not count as a meeting under the Open Door law.

Comments

  • Jorfer88

    Huge loss for Ritz. The lawsuit was a foolish move on the part of Ritz and to have it thrown on on such a basic aspect is extremely damaging. At the very least, combined with her voucher lawsuit, it allows her to be portrayed as sue-happy and at worst, it indicates an inadequate knowledge of education law. This is just the kind of ammo that her opponents need to support them undermining and sidestepping her, which has already begun.

    • JOS

      I beg to differ, by filing the lawsuit, Ritz ensured that the 55,000 ISTEP test items that needed to be manually rescored, were done before incomplete data was turned over to LSA. Considering that Indiana has at best a flawed A-F System a fact not disputed by the legislature who has ordered a revised system, and that her predecessor Tony Bennett manipulated the system design, without transparency,this was a good strategic move to ensure that preliminary reporting demonstrated integrity of the data.

      • Jorfer88

        She has never communicated this as her desire as far as I know, and if it was, it is a reckless stalling tactic that can easily backfire. In any case, the DOE would have had to supply the data, so the DOE was seemed to be thoroughly in charge of resisting the LSA’s involvement as long as possible.

    • John Comer

      I guess elections really don’t matter do they! If she had not filled the suit, how would the public know what has been going on? The media is not been reporting it! She has two choices, fight back or do nothing! Most people have not paid any attention to earlier state board meetings where he board was totally disrespected Glenda Ritz by adding things to the agenda and all voting in favor of their agenda! How could that happen if they had not met earlier to coordinate their effort? Oh is that a closed door meeting? You decide!

      • Jorfer88

        A robust media is critical for Democracy. The media neglecting its responsibility to adequately report on important education matters is something that needs to change, but the media wanting to report on softball issues with short soundbites is not something this is going to fix. Clearly the law was not on her side for this way of going about it.

      • SRW

        Maybe if she’d stop fighting and start governing she wouldn’t be having all these issues. But that would require that she have a plan and she doesn’t. She’s an incompetent who was only elected because her opponent was so disdained and the union wanted a mouthpiece. Sad but true.

  • Mouse Rat

    Challenge the attorney general’s exclusive right to file suit in federal court!

    • Jorfer88

      Can you imagine the enormous legal liability that could result from lawyers run amok if every government agency could file a suit with opposing members of a parallel unit of government with state funds? What next? The state treasurer suing members of the legislator for not declaring campaign contributions from conflicts of interest?

      • Mouse Rat

        All I think about is upholding open meeting laws, and how a GOP stranglehold on state politics is getting in the way of doing that.

        I have seen a family member fall victim to a board violating the open meeting law; that situation went to arbitration and the board had to pay for its violation. The board member who organized the meeting that violated the open meeting law was forced to resign.

        Justice was served in that case, and that is what needs to happen in this case.

        • Jorfer88

          Which is why 4 private citizens are suing the board now, but Glenda getting involved directly is just inflaming the situation

          • Mouse Rat

            That is just funny.

            Glenda Ritz is not responsible for the governor, the legislature, and the GOP-appointed school board working behind her back to strip her position of authority it enjoyed under Tony Bennett.

            The Republicans lost the election and have worked to reverse that through political machinations.

            If anyone has the right to fight for the power that the people of the state elected her to have, it is Glenda Ritz.

          • Jorfer88

            There is fighting and there is suing. We don’t want this to become the political wasteland that Washington is right now. Glenda was considered respected and well-liked (though distrusted) by the Indiana legislature before, but she threatens that reputation of cooperation with these kinds of moves going forward without anything clear to show in terms of gain.

          • Mouse Rat

            So you think seeking justice in court is worse than castration through executive order and legislation, against the will of the people of Indiana?

            Your opinion.

            I suppose you think rape victims were asking for it, too.

          • Jorfer88

            No. That’s a very inflammatory thing to say to liken political tomfoolery to such an egregious personal violation.

          • Mouse Rat

            Again, your opinion.

            What you call “political tomfoolery,” I see as a threat to democracy. And violating open meeting laws, as I have seen firsthand, is definitely not tomfoolery.

            Voters elected an individual to an established office and the losing side has worked to make that office meaningless. What Republicans have done is ethically reprehensible and most likely illegal. They have closed ranks to hide themselves from the law and hurt Glenda Ritz and the people who voted her into office.

            You want to have the last word, it is yours. I am done with your tomfoolery.

  • Obset

    There was no physical meeting of the Board. That is specifically stated in the law. Ritz’s legal shenanigans are a waste of her and everyone else’s time. And Ritz is wasting somebody’s money, and given her oversight of the pension fund and the money that went away there, one can assume it’s not hers! Seems to be a pattern with her: gimme, gimme, gimme, but I am not responsible!

    • informed

      The State Supt. does not have oversight of the pension fund! The governor has that oversight along with the General Assembly.

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