Helena school trustees will meet a little earlier than usual tonight to hold a closed, executive session to talk about an open-meetings lawsuit filed by opponents of a controversial health curriculum approved in 2010.
Afterward, trustees are expected to approve a settlement agreement during an open portion of the meeting.
A group of people including Bruce Norum, Jon Rush, Barb Hamlin, Theresa Frei, Mikal Wilkerson, Sharon Nason, Lori Page and Jeanne Sticht filed a lawsuit last year alleging various open-meeting violations and violations of the requirements to provide public records in connection with the passage of the health enhancement curriculum in 2010.
The recommendation from Jeff Hindoien, the district’s legal counsel, is to approve the settlement in order to secure the dismissal of the lawsuit and avoid any further legal expenses.
“A case like this, regardless of its merits, can cost a lot of money just to deal with it,” School Board Chairman Michael O’Neil said. “We haven’t done anything wrong.”
O’Neil said if the board approves the attorney’s recommendations, it will put an end to the case and limit expenses to taxpayers.
If approved, the school district agrees to pay $3,500 to the plaintiff’s counsel for fees and costs incurred during the case and to conduct an extensive electronic search for public records relating to the Health Enhancement Curriculum at the district’s expense and provide those records to the plaintiffs. If approved, the plaintiffs agree to dismiss the pending lawsuit.
Language in the proposed agreement says settlement of the lawsuit does not constitute any admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of the district.
The executive session begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Front Street Learning Center. The regular meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. Trustees are also planning to discuss the search for a new superintendent.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081, email@example.com or Twitter.com/IR_AlanaListoe