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CAB Will Not Let Board Member See Records
December 5, 2007 - The Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation's interim superintendent told The Banner last week that uncensored copies of four public records will not be made available to a school board member who has asked to see them.
"At this particular point, there's not a solution to that problem," said Ray Pavy, CAB's interim superintendent since July. On the advice of CAB's attorney, Pavy said school board member Kevin Knott will not be allowed to see four documents former Superintendent Hal Jester gave school board members in 2004 and 2005, before Knott and four other members joined the board.
CAB's public access officer, Jena Schmidt, previously told The Banner that CAB's attorney, Mike Wallman, told her the records in question were made "confidential" in 2005, when CAB issued heavily censored copies to The Banner. According to a letter Wallman sent Schmidt, the attorney never even reviewed the records himself before offering this advice.
Indiana Public Access Counselor Heather Neal told The Banner and CAB's Schmidt in early October that she did not think it was proper for Knott, or any other board member, to be denied access to the uncensored records. Despite Neal's views on the issue, however, CAB shows no sign of easing up on the secrecy surrounding these four documents.
In light of his administration's willingness to ignore Neal's advice, The Banner asked Pavy whether the records in question even still exist.
"I don't know," said Pavy. "I haven't tried to look for them. Gosh, that's years ago. I'm just trying to keep the place afloat right now. We've got tons of things going … We're trying to get things done at the end of the year."
Pavy admitted to The Banner that he didn't have "the slightest idea" about the nature of the records in question, saying he had only briefly seen a copy of one of the censored documents "in a file." Pavy explained that Wallman told him the records are "confidential" to him as well.
According to the redactions CAB made to the copies given to The Banner two years ago, the blacked out material was within the school corporation's discretion to release or withhold. Because the records did not have to be censored, The Banner has maintained that school board members should, at any time, be able to review the records and reconsider the earlier decision to redact the documents.
Short of a criminal investigation into CAB's refusal to make public records available to all members of its governing body, or a civil lawsuit to compel disclosure, the CAB School Board may be Knott's best hope for getting access to the records. Although the board has not taken any action on this issue, it would only take the votes of four members to require Schmidt to make the records available.
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