School board violated open meetings law

The Turtle Lake-Mercer school board violated the open meetings law last September, according to a ruling issued Wednesday by State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

Stenehjem wrote that the board failed to include a planned executive session on the agenda for the meeting, as is required by law. Once the Turtle Lake-Mercer school board had gone into executive session to discuss the results of a criminal history background check of a prospective employee, the board also discussed several general personnel issues that should not have been discussed in executive session. Specifically, the board discussed how it planned to evaluate candidates, its zero tolerance policy and on what basis board members would feel comfortable hiring a candidate. Stenehjem wrote that personnel matters are not generally confidential and should not have been discussed in executive session.

Under state law, boards may hold executive sessions to discuss closed or confidential records. The planned executive session must be listed in the meeting agenda. The board must record or videotape the executive session. Prior to going into executive session, the board must first announce the general topics that are to be discussed, give the legal authority for going into executive session and topics discussed during the executive session need to be limited to what was previously announced.

Stenehjem is requiring the board to make available the discussion during the executive session minutes that should not have been confidential. He also ordered that any future executive session of the board must be recorded electronically in such a way that it would permit review.