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Spirit Lake school board sued over open meetings

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SPIRIT LAKE - The Spirit Lake school board is being sued for allegedly holding a secret meeting to discuss the district's financial woes.

The school board met in January to talk about candidates for the superintendent's job, but the lawsuit claims that the board spent most of the two-hour meeting talking about the district's financial condition instead. Court records show that a tape recorder used in meetings was turned off.

The January meeting is one of four alleged violations of the state's open meetings law.

School board members have denied any wrongdoing.

Stephen Avery, an attorney for the school board, declined comment but says the board members believed they were following the law.

The lawsuit against the Spirit Lake school board also claims that the board held meetings at inappropriate times and locations, making it difficult for people to attend.

State law requires school boards to conduct business in public. The law does allow school boards to hold closed meetings to discuss certain issues, such as firing of a licensed employee, contract talks and expelling a student.

"The open meetings law gets special attention because it's obviously very important to us and to our members that they comply with not only the specifics but with the spirit of the law," said Lisa Bartusek, associate executive director of the Iowa Association of School Boards.



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