Access counselor: School board member may have violated law

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MODOC, Ind. (AP) — Indiana’s public access counselor says an eastern Indiana school board member may have violated the state’s open door law when she suspended the district’s superintendent.

Christa Ellis, the president of Union School Corp.’s school board, suspended Superintendent Fred Herron on Monday, a day before she and two fellow board members voted to place Herron on paid administrative leave. The board’s two other members, who were surprised by the move, abruptly resigned during the meeting.

“I don’t want to be part of this train wreck,” board member Alan McCormick said in resigning.

Tuesday’s heated meeting was attended by dozens of patrons of Union School Corp., a Randolph County district that’s one of Indiana’s smallest, with just 314 students.

A Ball State University study published last year found that only seven of Indiana’s nearly 300 school corporations have enrollments of less than 500. That study concluded that small districts are less efficient in educating students than larger corporations and they could boost their efficiency by merging with larger districts.

An advisory committee Herron appointed last year has recommended merging the district with one of two nearby districts.

Christina Ogden and Teresia Green — like Ellis— want to save the district from consolidation. They were elected in November by defeating two incumbents who leaned toward a merger.

Public Access Counselor Luke Britt said the question is whether Ellis acted unilaterally when she suspended Herron or if she had obtained Ogden and Green’s consent before suspending him.

If the latter is the case — and if Ellis lacked the authority to act unilaterally — he said she may have violated the law.

“If she needed authorization or ratification from the other two and got their consent, to me that amounts to a secret ballot and a secret vote, a violation of the Open Door Law,” he told The Star Press.

Britt added that he doesn’t know whether the school corporation or the school board’s bylaws or any other laws authorized Ellis to act unilaterally.

Ellis said she had only one-on-one conversations, mostly by telephone, with Ogden and Green before suspending Herron, and they never met. She said she’s an advocate of open government and last year made public that the school board had discussed consolidation in executive session without public notice.

“I outed that,” she said.

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Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

 

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