Emmett trustees call special meeting to address alleged open meeting violation

The Emmett School Board appears poised to self-correct an alleged violation of Idaho’s open meeting laws following a complaint filed last week by Idaho Education News.

Former Emmett Superintendent Wayne Rush

District officials have called a special school board meeting for 4 p.m. July 2. The publicly posted agenda calls for “Board consideration and possible action item regarding self-recognition of violation of open meeting laws, Idaho Code 74-108.”

The agenda goes on to list two action items, the “self recognition of violation of open meeting laws” and a “motion to reapprove Rush separation agreement” between the board and former Superintendent Wayne Rush.

The violation stems from the board’s handling of the separation agreement with Rush. During a June 12 board meeting, Board Chair Jody Harris twice said “Mr. Rush’s letter of resignation was accepted by the board of trustees during its meeting on June 5, 2019.”

However, the agenda for the June 5 meeting did not indicate that the board would be considering parting ways with its superintendent. Furthermore, the meeting minutes do not indicate the board took any action regarding the superintendent’s position.

However, the board did meet in a closed-door executive session June 5, and a copy of the separation agreement obtained by Idaho EdNews indicated that Rush and Harris signed the separation agreement on June 5.

The agenda for Emmett’s June 12 meeting called for the approval or denial of the separation agreement with Rush.

Idaho’s open meeting law requires government agencies — such as school boards — to conduct business in public. Furthermore, while closed-door executive sessions are allowed for limited reasons, the Idaho open meeting law forbids government agencies from taking any final action in executive sessions.

On June 20, Idaho Education News editor Jennifer Swindell filed a complaint with the Gem County Prosecuting Attorney’s office requesting a formal investigation into whether the school board violated open meeting law.

Emmett officials called for the July 2 special meeting after Gem County Prosecutor Erick Thomson received Idaho EdNews’ complaint.

One common way for a government agency to address a potential open meeting violation is to acknowledge a violation in an open meeting, nullify any action that would have violated the law and then re-do that action in an open meeting — in front of patrons and voters — after providing proper public notice through an agenda.

Reached Friday morning, Harris declined to comment on the agenda for the July 2 meeting and the alleged open meeting law violation.

“I really don’t want to talk to anybody from Idaho Ed News,” Harris said during a brief phone call.

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