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SD open meetings panel splits on allegations of violations

HURON -- The state Open Meeting Commission found unanimously Friday that public-notice violations were committed by the Matthews Township board in Kingsbury County last year.

In a second case, the commissioners decided the Leola school board acted within the law in handling a board member's resignation in December.

The Leola board had scheduled two meetings for the same day. The first meeting was for the purpose of an executive session. The second meeting was for the standard public meeting.

The board amended the agenda for the first meeting and accepted the board member's resignation while still in public session at the start of the first meeting before moving to executive session.

The board member wasn't present. The process for filling the vacancy was later brought up at the second meeting. Complainant Jerome Mack, of Leola, said the official minutes for the second meeting contained information about the resignation and vacancy that wasn't spoken publicly at the second meeting.

In a previous decision, the state commission decided in a Groton case that action couldn't be taken on an item at the same meeting that the item was added to the agenda.

But lawyer Rodney Freeman, of Huron, representing the Leola board Friday, said the state Supreme Court recently affirmed a circuit court decision allowing the Grant-Deuel school board to amend its proposed agenda.

The decision, Molden v. Grant-Deuel, doesn't appear on the state court system's Internet site. The Supreme Court merely affirmed it, so there wasn't an official opinion published. The Oct. 9 affirmation is listed but there's no explanation of the issue.

In the Matthews Township matter, township board members held meetings Oct. 24 and Oct. 30 without public notice. Decisions appear to have been made to change the size of a culvert that had been previously agreed upon.