Ex-teacher wins suit against School District No. 55
The Blackfoot School District has three days to comply with District Judge David Nye's decision that the specifics of a contracted service must be made public.
The judge ruled in favor of Plaintiff Joyce Bingham and The Post Register and against Defendant/Respondent Blackfoot School District 55 on Friday.
Bingham, a former teacher in the district, was the first to publicly question the payout of $105,428 paid by Blackfoot School District for contracted services on July 2, 2012.
"I'm glad the law was followed," said Bingham. "I'm glad the judge read the law the way I did."
"[The decision] is a happy thing in our world," said Jared Harris, Bingham's attorney.
"The lack of transparency of the board is absolutely appalling, even contractually binding themselves to hide it, even violating the disclosure statute," Harris said, "and that's wrong.
Explaining the facts of this case, Judge Nye wrote, "Both parties acknowledge that this is a case under the idaho Public Records Act that allows public examination of government records to ensure the government’s activities are transparent to the public it represents and to facilitate public scrutiny of the conduct of public officers.
“Yet, everything about this case smacks of a public agency trying to hide its decision-making from the public,” wrote Judge Nye.
The case hinged on the resignation of Scott Crane as the district’s superintendent with two years remaining on his contract.
Crane, who had worked in several capacities for the school district for 23 years, announced his retirement at an April 24 meeting. He is now superintendent of schools in Moab, Utah.
Judge Nye continued, “The only significant difference between Crane’s employment contracts and his separation contract is that the separation contract contains express language declaring that it is to be put in Crane’ personnel file and the District is to protect it from disclosure efforts made under the Idaho Public Records Act.
“Parties cannot exempt a public record from disclosure and hide it from the public simply by placing it in a personnel file and declaring the personnel file exemption to be applicable to it.
Both Bingham and the Post Register properly sought [this information], the judge wrote. “That record is not exempt from disclosure.”
It’s anticipated the District will disclose this information to lawyers for plaintiffs Bingham and The Post Register by Wednesday.
Crane had no comment at this time.