Marsh Valley trustees secretly approve contract extension, pay raise for superintendent

ARIMO — The Marsh Valley School Board secretly approved a contract extension and pay raise for its superintendent — and board chair Don Nielsen would not disclose the decision’s financial impact on taxpayers.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell you that,” Nielsen told EdNews.

Nielsen and trustees agreed — during a closed-door executive session on Dec. 10 — to extend Superintendent Marvin Hansen’s contract to a three-year agreement and fund an unspecified “salary increase” effective July 2020, according to draft board minutes obtained by EdNews through a public records request. The meeting’s agenda includes nothing about prospective changes to Hansen’s contract with the district.

The board reached the decision while in an executive session through “unanimous consensus,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen justified the secretive process by citing the district’s past handling of superintendent contracts.

“This is the same process the board has followed for at least 16 years,” he said, adding that trustees did not formally vote on the matter behind closed doors. “You can’t vote in executive session.”

After the “unanimous” decision in executive session, trustees returned to an open meeting where Nielsen disclosed a looming increase to Hansen’s salary. Nielsen did not say how much the increase would be.

Idaho’s open meeting law requires the formation of public policy to be conducted in open meetings. Private approval of the extended contract and pay raise — and Nielsen’s refusal to disclose the details — make it impossible for taxpayers to understand their financial obligation to Hansen.

Idaho law also requires districts and charters to post contracts on their websites and update them at least every 30 days. A day after this story first ran, personnel contracts, including Hansen’s, were uploaded to Marsh Valley’s website. Hansen’s 2019-20 salary: $108,973.

EdNews filed a complaint Wednesday with Bannock County Prosecutor Stephen Herzog regarding the apparent open meeting violation.

The Marsh Valley district is located in Arimo, some 25 miles south of Pocatello. The district enrolls around 1,300 students from several surrounding small towns.

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. Devin co-hosts "Beyond the Books" online news segments in conjunction with EastIdahoNews.com. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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