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Second Lawsuit Filed About Missouri Board of Education Turmoil

Earlier Tuesday, a Joplin chaplain filed a separate board-related lawsuit

A Springfield teacher has sued the Missouri Board of Education, claiming that the board violated the state open meetings law last week.

Duane Martin, a Columbia-based education attorney, filed the suit Tuesday on behalf of Laurie Sullivan, who teaches English in Springfield Public Schools. 

In the suit, Sullivan claims the board "purposefully violated Missouri Sunshine Law" on Nov. 21 because the determination of who from southwest Missouri was allowed to vote was determined in a closed meeting.

Gov. Eric Greitens, in an apparent quest to oust Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven, has appointed several people to the state board. The Republican governor removed two previous appointees who did not want to fire Vandeven before appointing a third, Jennifer Edwards, on the day of the meeting. 

Edwards showed up to the meeting along with Tim Sumners, of Joplin, and Missy Gelner, of Springfield, who participated by phone. They are the two appointees whom Greitens removed. All three were allowed to participate in the closed session, but only Edwards was allowed to vote. 

The lawsuit claims Greitens "has not removed" Sumners or Gelner "from office," nor has he provided them with due process procedures outlined in state statute. Sumners is suing Greitens and the state board members in a separate suit to challenge his removal from the board.

Sullivan's lawsuit alleges that Greitens' appointments "without properly removing current members" violate state law; similar claims have been made by Missouri Democrats and denounced by Greitens' spokesman as "a political stunt."

Martin, the attorney, wrote a letter to the board prior to the meeting notifying them that "any discussion regarding the seating or appointment of a new or additional State Board member" would break the state's open meetings law, which requires public entities to post agendas outlining planned actions and discussion items ahead of time. 

The agenda for last week's board of education meeting "did not include any reference to an agenda item related to the discussion and/or determination as to who would be seated and vote" as southwest Missouri's representative, the lawsuit said.

As a result, the lawsuit claims, any discussion of membership and voting privileges would not have been legal. 

The lawsuit is not seeking any monetary damages except attorney's fees.

Instead, Sullivan asked the Cole County Circuit Court to publicly declare that the board broke the Sunshine law and void any action it took. She also wants the court to block the board from recognizing anyone as southwest Missouri's official member until a majority of the board votes in "a lawfully convened public meeting" or the state Senate confirms a permanent appointee. 

Sullivan further argues that any decisions made with the vote of Edwards or another southwest Missouri board member "will cause immediate and irreparable harm sufficient to support an injunction."

The board is scheduled to meet Friday, and the matter of Vandeven's employment is once again expected to arise. 

Martin said he was connected with Sullivan by the Missouri State Teachers Association.  He added that Sullivan's lawsuit pertains to public policy, while Sumners' deals with a claim of legal entitlement. 
 

(Story shared by Springfield News-Leader.  Read the original article here )


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