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AG office says TUSD Board violated open meeting law

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Posted at 4:30 PM, Aug 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-14 12:01:38-04

The State Attorney General has found that the Tucson Unified School District Board violated an open meeting law, according a Facebook post from board member Mark Stegeman.

Stegeman posted the following:

In response to a complaint that Michael Hicks and I filed in December, the Attorney General’s office yesterday sent a letter to TUSD advising that the board violated the Open Meeting Law by holding the discussion of the superintendent’s goals in Executive Session. As a remedy, the AG requests that the board read the relevant parts of the letter into the record at a board meeting, accept the findings by a public vote, make the entire letter available to the public, and conduct a public training on the OML within 90 days.

Board member Michael Hicks provided KGUN9 with the following response:

It is mine and Dr. Stegeman's commitment to conduct the public's business in an open forum for transparency as much as the law allows.  We believe the actions taken by the Board majority in executive session didn't constitute transparency and only created distrust in the public's eyes.
 
I'm thankful that the Arizona Attorney General's office sees it the same as Dr. Stegeman and I do.
 
TUSD Board President Adelita Grijalva provided KGUN9 with the following response:
 
All five Board Members will benefit from OML training since 9 of the 10 allegations of OML violation cited by Hicks and Stegemen were not founded. In the one violation, the AG’s Office stated, “the Board’s conclusion that it was appropriate to discuss the Superintendent’s goals in executive session, though mistaken, is understandable. There is no evidence of any intent to circumvent the open meetings laws on the part of the Board. The evidence indicates that the Board honestly believed that it was complying with the requirements of the Open Meetings Laws (p. 12).”  This shows misunderstanding of OML by all five Board members.

The decision that superintendent goals cannot be crafted and discussed in executive session changes this practice across the State of Arizona. Our General Counsel is currently in communication with ASBA and the AG’s Office to ensure all are aware of the wide-spread implications of the decision by the AG’s Office. If the opinion stands as written,  all future Arizona superintendents will have to craft their goals with the Board fully in public or through an attorney in executive session.

TUSD Board member Mark Stegeman provided KGUN9 with the following response:

District leadership has been careless about the Open Meeting Law and this is a wake up call. The required training is an excellent idea.