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.