West Ada trustees void Superintendent Clark’s contract

(UPDATED at 1:40 Wednesday with a comment from Clark)

The West Ada Board of Trustees voted 4-1 to void a contract that extended Superintendent Linda Clark’s employment, saying they believe open meeting laws were violated during a June 23 meeting.

linda clark
Linda Clark

At that time, trustees voted 3-2 to retain Clark and extend her contract for a third year through June 2018.

On Tuesday night, the board took the advice of attorney Breck Seiniger, who said the published agenda for the June 23 meeting made no mention of Clark’s contract. After a closed executive session that night, trustees extended her contract.

“It’s my conclusion that did not meet the requirements of the open meeting laws,” Seiniger said. “This action doesn’t have anything to do with the contents of the contract. There has to be a good faith effort to include all the probable items to be discussed in the original agenda and in my opinion, that wasn’t done.”

According to Idaho Code, if a board evaluates its actions and deems it has violated open meeting laws, all actions taken at or resulting from the meeting are void. In this case, that would include Clark’s contract extension.

Trustee Carol Sayles made the motion to “void the contract.” It was seconded by trustee Julie Madsen. Mike Vuittonet was the only board member to speak and the only “no” vote.

“I’m not in favor of this action,” Vuittonet said. “The contract was valid. This is not the best course of action to take.”

Idaho Education News contacted Clark on Wednesday afternoon and she said she’s not able to comment about what has happened but moving forward said: “clearly, I have to seek legal counsel.”

After the vote on Tuesday night to void the contract, board chair Tina Dean then said the board would move to another executive session, causing members of the crowd to groan and demand to speak. The requests were denied. The board met in executive session for hour but without Vuittonet, who said he left the session because he believed his colleagues were off topic and violating open meeting laws.

While the board was in executive session, former Meridian schools superintendent Christine Donnell made an emotional plea to the nearly 100 people in the board room. (West Ada’s Christine Donnell School of Arts was named in her honor).

“This is a travesty,” she said. “It’s not Linda’s doing. It’s not good for the district. This is my community, my home and my children. This board needs to be recalled. I need all of you to help me.”

Her speech was rewarded with applause and she shouted out her contact information to begin recall efforts.

Dean started the special session at 5:30 p.m. and told a full audience of more than 100 that the board would change the published agenda and move into executive session. The agenda had called for the executive session after a vote on the self-evaluation of the open meeting law.

The board voted to move into executive session but did not vote to amend the agenda.

State Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, called out to the board and said it made a procedural wrongdoing and therefore the vote taken on Clark’s contract should be voided.

“Seiniger can draft a response at a later time,” Dean said to Winder.

“What they are trying to do to Linda isn’t fair,” Winder told Idaho Education News. “And these kinds of discussions should not go on behind closed doors.”

Trustees spent more than two hours in executive session before returning to vote on voiding Clark’s contract. They then spent another hour in executive session.

Clark has worked in Meridian-area schools for 37 years and has served as superintendent of Idaho’s largest district for the past 11 years. On July 31, Gov. Butch Otter appointed Clark to a vacant seat on the State Board of Education, a move that had some questioning whether she could juggle the two jobs. Others have supported the move.