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School district officials admit errors

December 10, 2012

Blackfoot School District trustees admit that they violated Idaho opening meeting laws on March 13, 2012, and April 24, 2012. At a special meeting held Monday, the board passed a resolution acknowledging the open meeting violations, apologizing to the public and vowing to secure training and education on the Idaho Open Meeting Act through the Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney's Office or the Idaho Attorney General.
The violations were brought to the board's attention on Nov. 26, 2012, through a registered letter from the The Post Register in Idaho Falls, said board chairman Scott Reese.
Present at the meeting was the district's attorney, Dale Storer, who said, "These meetings did not comply with the law for different reasons. There were problems with procedure."
Storer went on to explain that on March 13, 2012, the board went into executive session with the intention of addressing complaints against a public officer and unauthorized travel expenditures made by trustee Peter Lipovac. While still in executive session, the subject moved to Scott Crane, who was the superintendent at the time.
In the March executive session, Storer said, Crane addressed the board of trustees with a number of complaints about his relationship with the board and
Storer said that Crane was present at this executive session, which lasted two hours, and that it was at this time he expressed his desire to leave the district and offered a proposal to end the relationship.
After going back into "open session," Storer said that the board approved personnel matters presented by Crane but "didn't say what."
"They [the board] strayed into discussion not on the proposed agenda. This did not reflect proper meeting and agenda notice," Storer stated. "They strayed beyond the original purpose of the meeting."
On April 24, 2012, the board went into executive session for the stated purpose of "making a hiring decision." This meeting was scrutinized in the courts recently in the case between Joyce Bingham/The Post Register vs. Blackfoot School District. Following the eight minute executive session, Crane announced his retirement from the district.
"The hiring decision on April 24th was about Chad Struhs serving as interim superintendent," Storer noted. Struhs did not attend this meeting.
Storer revealed the executive session "strayed into Crane's pending retirement. [Board members] went behind the scope of the stated reason for an executive session.
"They did not comply with the open meeting act," the district's attorney said.
"These circumstances reflect lack of understanding of appropriate convening into executive session," he added.
Board chairman Scott Reese, stoically spoke on behalf of the board, stating, "We did error. We apologize to the patrons and the staff for our mistakes. We look forward to getting some training. The 'resolution' allows the board to fix a mistake. It cures the mistake."
There was no mention at the meeting about last week's verdict in the case of Joyce Bingham/The Post Register vs. Blackfoot School District. The district complied with District Judge Nye's order on Monday by releasing the requested documents to Joyce Bingham attorney, Jared Harris. The documents revealed a separation agreement between the district and Crane that equates to nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
Check for further details in Tuesday's Morning News print edition and on Facebook.

 

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