Board breaks ‘Sunshine Law’ by closing meeting to public

10:00 am | March 7, 2013

Carter County Director of Schools Kevin Ward says the system will be more mindful of the rules in the future, but his assurances came after the school board closed a meeting to the public – a clear violation of state law.

Near the conclusion of a Wednesday Carter County Board of Education workshop, Carter County Schools Secondary Supervisor Danny McClain asked for the meeting to be closed for unspecified legal reasons.

“Now I will have to close the meeting,” McClain said, “because we’re going to talk about some negotiations and legal issues.”
Sheriff Chris Mathes and two officers were invited to take part in the closed session.

While the Elizabethton STAR initially left the meeting, members of the news department, including two editors, returned with copies of state law that showed closed meetings of public boards are not allowed. A narrow exception – allowing boards to meet privately with an attorney to discuss pending or current litigation – was not met Wednesday because no attorney was present and, school officials confirmed, there was no discussion of pending or current litigation against the school system.

Ward apologized for the board’s break with the law.

“The process is a little more strict than what, I think, any of us understood it to be,” Ward said. “In the future, we will be well aware of it.”

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