State Board to address ‘alleged’ open meeting violation

(UPDATED, 4:50 p.m., with additional details about the meeting.)

The State Board of Education will meet Friday morning “to address (an) alleged open meeting violation.”

The meeting comes two weeks after Attorney General Raúl Labrador sued the State Board over a series of closed-door meetings this spring, involving the University of Idaho’s proposed purchase of the University of Phoenix.

It’s not immediately clear how the State Board might address the lawsuit — and the deliberations that led up to the board’s unanimous May 18 vote to green light the $685 million purchase.

A state agency can admit to an open meetings violation and “cure” the actions stemming from the illegal meeting. That means, in other words, that the State Board could essentially declare a do-over and again approve the purchase.

On the other hand, the State Board could also fight the lawsuit, and last week, the board appeared to be gearing up for battle. In a letter to Labrador’s office Friday, State Board executive director Matt Freeman said the board would have to hire an outside attorney to defend itself from Labrador’s lawsuit — and Freeman said the board would be sending its legal bills to the attorney general. Freeman also asserted that a deputy attorney general, a member of Labrador’s staff, attended the State Board’s May 15 closed meeting, and raised no concerns about the meeting’s legality.

That May 15 closed meeting is the crux of Labrador’s lawsuit.

When the State Board voted to go into this executive session, board members cited a section of state law covering “preliminary” discussions of a business transaction that pits Idaho against competitors in other states or countries. Labrador has questioned whether the meeting could have possibly been preliminary in nature, when board members approved the purchase on May 18. He has also questioned whether Phoenix was considering would-be buyers in other states.

The State Board meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday. But before the open session, board members will hold a 7:30 a.m. executive session to discuss pending or likely litigation — presumably Labrador’s lawsuit.

Check back Friday for meeting coverage.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday