Thanks to “Armpit” for sending this one to me! Apparently, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office received a petition from a concerned citizen in the Appoquinimink School District due to an open meeting violation concerning their school board. Superintendent Matthew Burrows contract was invalidated due to the FOIA violations! You can read the legal opinion here but I will give the highlights:
We find that Executive Session and Public Meeting Agendas for the June 2014 Board Meeting violated FOIA and affected substantial public rights. In a similar case, we determined that the school board violated substantial public rights “by deciding who to hire as the new [District] superintendent outside of public view.” Del. Op. Att’y Gen. 02-IB17, 2002 WL 31031224, at *8 (Aug. 6, 2002). In that case, the “specific rights at issue . . . were the rights of students, parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens in the District to be involved in the selection of a new superintendent.” Id. However, we declined to invalidate the school board’s approval of the new superintendent for equitable reasons. See id., at *10.
Similarly, although we find that the Board’s June 2014 Meeting and related agendas violated FOIA, we decline to determine that the approval of the Contract is invalid for violation of the open meeting law.7 The record indicates that after Mr. Weller raised his concerns about the adequacy of the Board’s June 2014 meeting agendas, the Board placed the matter on its November agenda, engaged in a public discussion about the Contract at the November meeting, and voted on the Contract at the November meeting. The Board also completed FOIA training in a public session in November 2014 in order to gain additional understanding of FOIA’s public meetings laws. Therefore, we find that the Board has already taken action to cure the June 2014 violations of the open meetings laws. Under the circumstances, no additional remediation is required.
Even though the matter was fixed by the board, it still happened. What would have happened if Mr. Weller never brought it to the Attorney General’s attention? If I ever meet Mr. Weller I would like to shake his hand for his bravery and determination in this matter. School boards are elected officials, and they need to follow the letter of the law!