Q&A: Joint notice of school board meetings


From The News-Banner (Bluffton):

Q: A school board joint notice gave the start time for an open meeting and noted an executive session would follow.

The notice included the open meeting’s agenda and at the bottom gave the following notice of executive session: “An executive session will follow the public meeting to discuss, prior to any determination, an individual’s status as an employee as allowed by IC 5-14-1.5-6.” Is that proper notification? 

A: Since the executive session follows the public meeting, combining the notices is fine.

I have a couple of problems with the description of the session and code cited.

IC 5-14-1.5-6 is incorrect and not complete. It should be IC 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(6). If you stop at 6.1 on the citation that would include all the reasons for an executive session and tell the public nothing about whether the subject matter is proper for a closed-door session.

The text given – “to discuss, prior to any determination, an individual’s status as an employee …” – leaves out the important part of (b)(6): “to receive information concerning the individual’s alleged misconduct; and to discuss, before a determination, the individual’s status as an employee.”

Their edited text would allow the school board to discuss a basketball coach with a losing record behind closed doors. Losing is not misconduct.

The “and” in the statute means that to have an executive session under (b)(6) the school board is receiving information about the employee’s alleged misconduct and discussing the employee’s employment status.

If alleged misconduct isn’t involved, then (b)(6) isn’t eligible as a basis for an executive session.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.