Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AG slaps Jefferson school board, KCTCS for secrecy surrounding executive evaluations

The Jefferson County Board of Education can't hide from "unwanted or unpleasant public input" in evaluating Superintendent Sheldon Berman, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway ruled Tuesday.

The ruling said the board violated the state's open-meetings law when it made its annual evaluation of Berman in a closed session July 29, despite a 2008 attorney general's opinion that such evaluations must be made publicly unless they might lead to discipline or dismissal. Berman's evaluation was positive, though the board urged him to improve his interaction with the board, the community and parents.

The decision came in response to a complaint by The Courier-Journal, which disclosed the ruling in a story today. Board chair Debbie Wesslund told the Louisville newspaper that she disagreed with the opinion, and would consult with the board and lawyers in deciding whether to appeal. The 2008 decision, which involved a similar case in Spencer County, is under appeal in circuit court.

In a similar case, Conway issued a ruling Tuesday that the Kentucky Community & Technical College System violated the Open Records Act when it refused to give its evaluation of former president Dr. Paula Gastenwald to the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. Gastenwald was removed as president by the KCTCS board earlier this year. The attorney general said the public's interest in the case outweighed any privacy interst of Gastenwald. "The public is entitled to know why Dr. Gastenwald was removed," the opinion said.

Full texts of attorney general opinions in Open Meetings/Open Records cases can be found through Links of Interest at the bottom of the KOG Blog.

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