Q&A: School board serial meetings


From the South Bend Tribune:

Q: A school board member is alleging that the superintendent and some board members are holding serial meetings. The purpose of the meetings, he says, has been for the superintendent to sway the board to vote down a contract between the district and a private, faith-based alternative school that serves dropouts.

One of the meetings, I’m told, was a luncheon with the superintendent and two board members. The other included three other board members but was at a board agenda-setting meeting. Since it was a meeting to set an agenda and the contract with the alternative school would have been a legitimate topic of discussion, does this scenario meet the criteria for serial meetings?

A: Serial meetings are covered in Open Door Law at IC 5-14-1.5-3.1. It requires at least two gatherings of school board members, with one meeting involving at least three members and having the total number of members equaling or exceeding a majority of the members. The gatherings have to be within a period of seven days and the subject matter must be the same at all gatherings and pertain to public business.

Assuming that five would match or exceed a majority, you have the potential for a serial meeting violation if the superintendent discussed the contract at both meetings and he conducted the meetings within seven days of each other.

I don’t think the fact that the discussion at the agenda-setting gathering covered additional topics to the one in question would void the application of the serial-meeting prohibition.

The question becomes whether you can confirm that they discussed the same subject matter at both gatherings if all the other criteria has been met.

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