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Process to draft letter threatens Ritz’s suit

The legal basis for Glenda Ritz’s lawsuit against the state Board of Education is murky.

Hoosier State Press Association President Steve Key said it’s a fact-sensitive situation depending on the process used to draft the letter.

“The fact that there is a letter signed by 10 members of the board of education doesn’t necessarily mean there was a meeting subject to the open door law,” he said.

He said that if a quorum of six or more members met in one place it could be a violation. But if one member called or emailed others individually to ask about whether they would like to sign a letter, there likely isn’t.

Key said a change to the law by legislators made “serial meetings” illegal, in which the total number of members involved in a series of meetings equals a quorum.

He said a conference call would count as attending a gathering under this part of the law but the statute specifically excludes email.

State Board of Education member Cari Whicker said “absolutely there was not a meeting.” She said a board member had emailed DOE staff for a timeline update and hadn’t gotten a response.

This led to a discussion between state board members and staff at the Center for Education and Career Innovation – an agency created by Gov. Mike Pence that has unilaterally taken control of the State Board of Education.

“So there was communication back and forth with each other via phone or email feeling everybody out,” Whicker said. “Staff drafted the letter and asked who wanted to sign it. I got the email, printed it, signed it and scanned it.”

nkelly@jg.net

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