West Ada board to review if it violated open-meeting laws

The West Ada School District trustees voted Tuesday night to proceed with a self-evaluation to determine if it violated open meeting laws, an action that could impact the renewal of Superintendent Linda Clark’s contract.

The board voted 4-1 to hold this self-evaluation during a Sept. 29 public meeting.

“The board may have violated the open meeting law and we’re taking self-corrective action,” said trustee Russell Joki. “We’re beginning a process of reviewing it.”

If the board determines it violated open meeting laws during a June 23 meeting, all actions taken at or resulting from the meeting are void, according to Idaho Code (74-208).

Clark’s contract was extended on June 23. Trustees voted 3-2 to retain Clark and extend her contract for a third year through June 2018. She has led Idaho’s largest school district for 11 years.

Two trustees who supported the contract extension are now gone from the board, replaced by Joki and fellow newcomer Julie Madsen. Their terms began on July 1.

“They are looking for a meeting violation because they want to invalidate the third year,” said trustee Mike Vuittonet, who cast the lone dissenting vote against an open meetings evaluation.

Joki said: “If the board decides the open meeting laws were violated in June, we will re-vote on matters that went before the board that night.”

Madsen made the motion Tuesday night to review of board’s June 23 actions. She read a prepared statement citing Idaho Code. Trustee Carol Sayles seconded the motion. (Madsen did not respond to emails from Idaho Education News Wednesday.)

The board may have violated the open-meetings law, Joki said, since the agenda and the minutes of the June 23 meeting indicate a discrepancy. (Click here to review agendas and minutes).

“Going into executive session and coming out and voting on the superintendent contract was not an item on the agenda or a topic that matched the reason for going into executive session,” Joki said Tuesday morning. “Madsen said because of that, the board violated the open meeting law.”

Vuittonet— the board chair at the time — defended the June 23 actions.

“I don’t believe the meeting was improper — I’m certain of it,” Vuittonet said. “I think her contract is valid.”

Idaho Code requires the board to acknowledge publicly within 14 days if the meeting in question violated open meeting laws, and therefore “cure the violation” or state publicly that no violation has occurred. The board will consult with attorney Breck Seiniger on this possible violation and all district purposes. That, too, was agreed on by trustees Tuesday night.

“I am the authorized representative with respect to legal matters,” said Seiniger, who is in the process of familiarizing himself with the possible open-meeting violations.

Clark has worked in Meridian-area schools for 37 years. She will earn $143,475.29 this school year. On July 31, Gov. Butch Otter appointed Clark to a vacant seat on the State Board of Education, a move that had some West Ada trustees questioning whether she could juggle the two jobs. Others have supported the move.

Click here to read Idaho Education News’ recent profile on Clark.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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