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SEBRING SAGA: Lawsuit Filed Over Closed Meeting

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is suing Des Moines Public Schools over a closed session meeting about the resignation of then superintendent Nancy Sebring.

The lawsuit is filed by the ACLU on behalf of former school board member Graham Gillette. It claims portions of a May 10th meeting by school board members should be made public under Iowa’s open records law. Sebring had originally announced her resignation in April with an end date of June 30th because she had accepted the superintendent position at Omaha Public Schools.

The meeting was held after Sebring sent an e-mail to board members May 9th, informing them she was leaving her position early. The lawsuit says during the meeting discussions were had on embarrassing information that was soon to become public, due to an open records request by the Des Moines Register, about sexually explicit e-mails Sebring sent to her married lover using her school district e-mail account.

“The Des Moines school board members appear to have gone into closed meeting not to discuss the qualifications of employees, as is permitted by the law, but to strategize on how to handle themselves politically in the wake of an uncomfortable situation,” claims Gillette.

In response to the lawsuit, Des Moines Schools spokesman Phil Roeder said, “As everyone everywhere knows by now, the May 10 School Board meeting was in every way, shape and form about personnel matters, and as such the Board acted according to Iowa law in holding a closed session. The district will vigorously defend itself against this entirely frivolous lawsuit.”

The lawsuit is asking for a third party to review the 80 minute recording of the meeting to make sure it meets the requirements of a closed door session.

Read the lawsuit here.

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