Vote may have violated law
The USD 408 school board’s discussion of pay raises for Superintendent Lee Leiker and three principals might have violated state law, according a leading expert on the Kansas Open Meetings Law.
“It appears that the executive session was to discuss the pay raises if the board simply returned to open meeting and voted,” Topeka attorney Michael W. Merriam said in answer to an inquiry from the Marion County Record. “If so, that would be illegal.”
The problem is, because a Record reporter had been disingenuously told the meeting would be routine, no one was present to determine whether the raises were discussed in open session in between four closed sessions and a quick series of votes approving the raises and other matters.
“If pay raises were discussed in executive session, that’s illegal, regardless of the agenda,” Merriam said.
According to approved minutes of the meeting, the board ended its series of four closed sessions at 12:53 p.m. then unanimously voted on four resolutions: acceptance of a teacher’s resignation, approval of a class sponsor, giving $2,350 raises to each of three principals, and setting the superintendent’s salary at $100,000.
Minutes of the meeting were drafted and approved, and the board adjourned — all within 13 minutes of the end of the final closed session, according to the officially adopted minutes.
There also is a question whether the topic of raises could even have been discussed at the board’s special meeting.
“If it was a special meeting of a school board, there is a statute that specifies that they can only discuss what is on the agenda for that meeting,” Merriam said. “It’s the only situation where that applies: only school boards and only special meetings and only the agenda items.”
The only item on the agenda that could have been related to raises was a cryptic entry: “executive session – personnel.”
A Record reporter had been told before the meeting that this matter involved the class sponsorship dealt with in the second resolution approved after the four closed-door sessions.
Violations of the Kansas Open Meetings Act are not criminal acts and can resulrt only in civil fines, which are rarely assessed.
Last modified July 12, 2012