Kayla Hoffman Responds After Ruling Against Her Complaint with Indiana Public Access Counselor
BEDFORD - FEBRUARY 17, 2023 - Tuesday February 14, 2023, the Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke H. Britt issued his opinion that the North Lawrence Community School board did not violate the open-door law during the annual budget process.
Hoffman publicly acknowledged the findings to the North Lawrence Community School board on Thursday during their regular scheduled meeting.
" I still maintain that discussion took place in private, that should have taken place in public,"
During Hoffman's presentation she stated that NLCS School attorney Greg Pittman maintains that Hoffman provided no evidence that those discussions took place in private.
" There is no way, I could have proved this discussion have taken place because the NLCS met in executive session are private. I spent several hours trying to build my case on these claims with what information, and with what I could. Mr. Pittman is a skilled attorney and understands that if there is no evidence there is no case. So, I must concede his ability to work a case, and my inability to gather evidence that is not available to me," said Hoffman.
Hoffman took issue with the Captial Improvement Plan that had no discussion among the existing four board members that currently sit on the North Lawrence Community School Board during the public session. " How is it that none of the school board members had any questions regarding this plan?, asked Hoffman.
Hoffman stated that she received correspondence from NLCS board members president Dr. Wendy Miller and Adam Parsley that the board will be more forthcoming and transparent in dealing with the public in the future.
Hoffman states " There is no true accountability unless it comes from the inside," Hoffman asked that each schoolboard member holds one another accountable.
The North Lawrence Community School have taken several executive sessions off this year's school board calendar to help be more transparent to the public.
Hoffman filed her complaint on October 27, 2022 claiming that NLCS violated the Open Door Law during the budget process. Hoffman stating that the board adoption of the 2023 budget held on October 20, 2022 violated the Open Door Law.
In looking through previous minutes and audio recordings of the meeting and previous meetings could not find any discussions regarding their spending plans, or instances of the board discussing those matters in a public session.
Hoffman then contends that discussions took place behind closed doors in violation of the Open Door Law. In asking NLCS Dr. Ty Mungle about the matter, Hoffman did not receive a satisfactory response.
Greg Pittman, Pittman Law Firm responded to the Open-Door Complaint on December 13, 2022, denying any conversations about the budget or spending plans taking place outside of the advertised public meetings. Pittman states public meetings where plans were properly advertised according to Indiana State law.
Dr. Wendy Miller told the public Thursday that although there will be a need for executive sessions due to personnel matters, they will try to limit the number of executive sessions conducted.
The work session March 2nd, 2023, however, has been changed to a executive session at 4:00 pm to discuss personnel matters and strategic plan for the NLCS school board members.
Work sessions are available to the public, whereas executive sessions are closed to the public. Therefore, the public cannot attend the meeting on March 2, 2023.
In the lawsuit the North Lawrence Community School Corporation filed against the member of the public for trying to access information on who was chosen NLCS Supt. Ty Mungle serve on the Visionary Committee has dropped some of the defendants in that matter.
The North Lawrence Community School Corporation dropped the lawsuit against Jason Johnson, Gerald Hill, and James Evans.
This will only leave Jerry Ford and Deanna Ford as the only two being sued by the school corporation for limiting public access to records pertaining to the school consolidation.
The case being presided by Monroe County Judge Holly M. Harvey did not rule on the lawsuit at this time taking more than three years.
On August 5, 2022, Jerry and Deana Ford filed for a status conference by their attorney Glen Koch.
On October 24, 2022, Judge Harvey issued an order for dispositive motion:
NLCS shall file a dispositive motion no later than February 15, 2023
Jerry and Deanna Ford will file a response or cross motion no later than March 15, 2023
NLCS shall file a reply and response or cross motion no later than April 15, 2023
A dispositive motion is disposing all or part of the claims in favor of the moving party without the trial court proceedings.
The lawsuit by the North Lawrence Community School Corporation was filed by the Pitman Law Group on behalf of the school corporation was filed on January 31, 2020, seeking a declaratory judgment.
This came after the Indiana Public Access Counselor ruled in favor of the defendants seeking public access to several documents regarding the consolidation of the NLCS.
School Attorney James G. Pittman filed for a Judicial Review of the Indiana Public Access Counselor ruling that the NLCS violated the Open Door Law.
Jason Johnson filed the complaint on November 19, 2019, alleging that the school corporation violated the Open Door Law.
On December 11, 2019, the North Lawrence School Corporation filed a response to the complaint. On January 7, 2020, Indiana Public Access Counselor issued an advisory opinion that the school corporation did in fact violate the law.
Pittman claims that the advisory opinion is not supported by law, and not supported by evidence.
Pittman went on to explain that the largest issue is whether the Visionary Committee is a governing body. Pittman says the committee was not directly appointed by board or board's presiding officer Trent Todd. The committee was actually selected by Dr. Ty Mungle the superintendent of the school corporation.
Three of the North Lawrence Community School board members were added to the Visionary Committee. Dr. Ty Mungle provided updates to the public during the school board meetings. A total of more than 30 individuals from the public attended closed door meetings at the Stonegate Arts & Education Center in Bedford.
In addition, on January 31, 2020 the school corporation filed a declaratory judgment against Jason Johnson, Jerry Ford, Deanna Ford, Gearld (Jerry) Hill, and James Evans.
The defendants Jason Johnson, Jerry Ford, Deanna Ford, Gearld ( Jerry) Hill and James Evans sought the request of public records.
In the complaint filed by Pittman, North Lawrence Community Schools hired Dr Ty Mungle in February 2019. Dr. Ty Mungle started reviewing the school corporation and discovered the following.
NLCS experienced a reduction in student enrollment during the past 10 years
10 elementary schools had less than 300 students
6 out of the 10 elementary schools were receiving a grade of D or F in 2019
In July 2019, after being hired as the permanent superintendent Dr. Ty Mungle hired a consulting firm on reviewing data, gathering input from experts and community stakeholders and setting a vision for the future.
Based on other school districts and on the advice of Esolve Solutions Dr. Mungle invited 30 community volunteers to participate in a series of meetings and consider options for the NLCS
The purpose of the volunteer group was for NLCS to review data, gather input from experts, and community stakeholders and set a vision for the future.
In the complaint, Pittman requested a declaratory judgement that the Visionary Committee was not a public agency or governing body and not subject to Open Door Law. The school corporation entered into an agreement with the committee members that their names would not be released to the public.
Lawrence County Zephyr will continue to monitor developments in the proceedings.
For breaking news, news and information go to lczephyr.org or like/follow us on Facebook.