Marsh Valley trustees agree to buy out contract without disclosing its details

ARIMO — Trustees in the Marsh Valley School District approved buying out an unnamed employee’s contract for an unspecified amount of taxpayer dollars, according to draft minutes obtain by Idaho Education News via a public records request.

EdNews  has asked the local prosecuting attorney to evaluate whether the anonymous proceedings violated state law.

Last Monday, the board unanimously approved a “contract buyout of employee A,” draft minutes from the opening meeting show. The minutes include no mention of who received the money or for how much.

Marsh Valley board chair Kevin Fonnesbeck told EdNews Tuesday that trustees didn’t disclose the amount or who received it because the board’s attorney dubbed the payout a “personnel matter.” Taxpayers will be financially obligated to pay the undisclosed amount.

Patrons will be able to view the amount in expense reports approved by the board next month, Fonnesbeck added.

Idaho law requires the formation of public policy to be completed in open meetings. The law also exempts some information, including personnel records and personal information, from public disclosure. Yet “gross salary and salary history, including bonuses, severance packages (and) other compensation” are not included in that exemption.

EdNews has asked Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen F. Herzog to consider if Marsh Valley violated Idaho’s open meeting laws.

It’s unclear if last week’s buyout related to the board’s decision last summer to discipline former Marsh Valley Superintendent Marvin Hansen, who had been embroiled in a sexual harassment complaint and admitted in June to misusing a district car and cell phone. The board demoted Hansen for ethical violations but guaranteed him a new position in the district with reduced pay.

In December 2019, trustees secretly approved a three-year contract extension and raise for Hansen without disclosing the financial impact on taxpayers. Trustees self-corrected the secretive contract extension after EdNews filed a complaint with Herzog.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story. 

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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