Playing loose with the law. The School Board met two hours in secret and failed to comport with legal requirements for meetings to be open. The violation defied a principle of democracy — that the public’s business be conducted openly. Provisions in the law for exceptions were not followed. Do they teach civics in Plainview?

Board members scurry away from reporter questions

PLAINVIEW, Minn. – The Plainville School Board met behind closed doors – no outsiders allowed — as community concern kept rising over student misbehaviour and school administrators’ response that led to cancellation of the high school homecoming parade and pep rally. News reporters and the public were barred from the meeting. Principal Mike Walton was seen walking in. The superintendent of Plainview-Elgin-Millville Schools, Darrin Strosahl, who handled the original public responses to the misbehavior, was not in attendance. The School Board meeting reportedly had only one purpose but the agenda, contrary to statutory requirements, was not published. After the meeting Board members walked away as reproters attempted to ask what had occurred. Not even a “no comment.” Just silence.

School Board

Julie LaBare, of Elgin.

Stacy Fox, of Millville.

Julie Hart, of Elgin.

Roger Rahman, of Elgin.

Rod Springer, of Millville.

Jake Thompson, of Millville.

Monica Sveen-Ziebell, of Elgin.

Walton. Plainview High School principal

Open meeting law

The Plainville School Board meeting violated state open-meeting requirements, which are designed to assure htat the public’s business be conducted in public. The premise: Accountability to the citizenry. Closed meetings are allowed under the law for sensitive issues, such as personnel. but there are strict conditions for going behind closed doors:

> The meeting’s ourpose must be announced in public session. This was not done, although the Board did post notice that it would hold a meeting at 6 p.m. at the high school. The notice did not list the subject to be discussed.

> No additional issues may be taken up in the closed session.

> Any vote in a closed meeting must be announced immediately afterward in open session with public present  — or whether here  was no vote This was not done.

> Any action taken at a closed meeting, such as a vote, is null and void if these requirements are not met. There are fines for violations. In some states, open-meetig laws provide for jail time for repeated violations.

It’s not uncommon for local school board and village boards to violate open-meeting requirements unwittingly. Few locally elected representatives are lawyers, but boards have counsel available to guide them on legal requirements.