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Public Access Counselor Rules Eastern Greene School Board Broke Open Door Laws

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The school board's February meeting filled an elementary school gymnasium with many parents upset over the lack of transparency. (Brock Turner, WTIU/WFIU News)

The Eastern Greene County School Board is facing renewed scrutiny after Indiana’s Public Access Counselor determined the school board violated open door laws.

The opinion follows a controversial school board meeting last month where community members filled a gymnasium. Many were concerned with the board’s overall lack of transparency following a decision not to renew contracts for high school Head Football Coach Travis Wray and Athletic Director Aaron Buskirk.

Public Access Counselor Luke Britt says his office received 13 complaints about the situation.

According to Britt's advisory opinion, the board failed to notify the public of a contract expiration and the subsequent merger of positions. It says a decision "akin to final action" took place behind closed doors.

Britt says the sequence of events was most telling, even if the board approved the personnel matter at a later meeting.

"I think the timeline was the most informative," he says. "The steps seemed to be a little out of order. They ended up ratifying the action taken, but that seemed to be short-circuited by action on the front-end."

Currently the district is advertising a joint position that includes the responsibilities of both the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach.

A statement from the attorney representing Eastern Greene says the district "respectfully disagrees" that the board violated open door laws. He notes Wray and Buskirk’s contracts do not expire until August 2019. The attorney says that means no final action on the contracts was taken. 

Statement regarding Public Access Counselor (PAC) Advisory Opinion 19-FC-10 by Indiana Public Media News on Scribd

Additionally, the opinion says the school board did not violate open door laws when it added the hiring of a new baseball coach to the agenda. The Public Access Counselor also noted the need to change language in public notices regarding executive sessions. Attorneys representing the board agreed with that portion of the opinion.

19-FC-10 by Indiana Public Media News on Scribd

Editorial Note: Scott Carmichael, an employee for Indiana University’s Radio and Television Services—the parent organization for WTIU/WFIU, is a voting member of the school board.

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