In a five-minute special meeting Tuesday, the Emmett School District board of trustees acknowledged violating Idaho’s open meetings laws on June 5, when the board entered into a separation agreement with outgoing Superintendent Wayne Rush.
Then, trustees promptly corrected that — nullifying the June 5 action and publicly re-approving an agreement that could net Rush more than $123,000.
Tuesday’s meeting followed a legal complaint Idaho Education News filed with the Gem County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, asking for an investigation into whether the Emmett School Board violated open meetings law when trustees first approved Rush’s separation agreement.
Rush’s resignation went public after a June 12 public hearing. However, at that time, Board Chair Jody Harris said trustees had already accepted Rush’s letter of resignation during a June 5 meeting.
The agenda for the June 5 meeting didn’t mention a board vote to separate with the superintendent. Nor did the minutes from that meeting. But, a copy of Rush’s separation agreement obtained by EdNews indicates it was signed by both Rush and Harris on June 5.
Documents show the board met in a closed-door executive session on that day. But Idaho’s open meeting law requires government agencies — such as school boards — to conduct business in public. Closed-door executive sessions are allowed for limited reasons, but the law forbids government agencies from taking any final action in executive session.
Emmett officials called for Tuesday’s special meeting after Gem County Prosecutor Erick Thompson received Idaho EdNews’ complaint.
“Question has been raised with regard to possible violation of Idaho open meeting act, associated with the board meeting of June 5,” trustee Jefferson Jenkins said during Tuesday’s meeting.
He asked fellow trustees to “self-recognize a violation of the open-meetings act,” and render any improper action at that meeting null and void.
The vote was unanimous. So was the vote on the next item: a motion to re-approve Rush’s separation agreement.
Asked last week for comment on the special meeting, and allegation of an open meetings law violation, board chair Harris declined to speak to EdNews.
Emmett trustees are scheduled to discuss the superintendent search during a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The board will discuss the search in an executive session; the meeting agenda says trustees could take action on the search after their closed meeting.
EdNews reporter Clark Corbin contributed to this report.