SIOUX CITY — The Sioux City Community School District and school board members state Iowa open records laws have not been violated in the ongoing dispute with former Sioux City Schools Superintendent Paul Gausman.
Gausman filed a petition in April claiming the district is continuing to deny an open records request made by Gausman in December and by doing so is violating Iowa open records laws.
The district and school board members filed a motion to dismiss on Friday denying the allegation, which prompted Gausman to file a resistance to the motion to dismiss on Monday, three days later.
The recent court filings are related to a lawsuit filed by Gausman in January.
The current superintendent of the Lincoln (Neb.) School District filed suit in Woodbury County District Court in January claiming school board members Dan Greenwell, Jan George, Taylor Goodvin and Bob Michaelson violated Iowa Open Meetings laws.
People are also reading…
The suit alleges on Jan. 24, 2022, and Nov. 30, 2022, the board held special meetings and closed sessions to discuss Gausman and his professional qualifications.
In the process of seeking information discussed at said meetings, Gausman filed an open records request, which was denied. He is seeking minutes, notes and recordings of closed school board meetings that occurred on Jan. 24, 2022, March 28, 2022, and Nov. 30, 2022.
Gausman claims due to the alleged illegality of the closed meetings, the meetings were actually open meetings and he has a right to the information and therefore filed the petition in April.
"The meetings were and are ... open sessions and the records of those meetings were and are open and public records," according to the resistance to the motion to dismiss court documents.
He is asking for the requested documents to be provided and asks the court to order the district and school board members to refrain from improperly withholding and delaying records and provide records requests without unreasonable delay for one year on penalty of civil contempt. Gausman is also seeking damages, attorney fees and costs.
The motion to dismiss denies the claims and asks the court to dismiss all counts for lack of jurisdiction. In response, Gausman stated Iowa Code allows citizens to sue government entities to gain access to public records.
Greenwell, on behalf of the board, denied Gausman's open records request on Jan. 5, stating minutes and recordings of closed sessions were exempt from disclosure. The request was again denied on April 3.
Iowa Code states "The detailed minutes and audio recording of a closed session shall be sealed and shall not be public records open to public inspection."
Gausman claims the district has “unreasonably delayed” providing the information or providing a timeline on when the information would be given or denied.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” according to the petition.
The motion to dismiss cites the Iowa Code regarding closed session minutes and states Greenwell responded to Gausman in a timely manner.
Gausman stated on Jan. 24, 2022, the board met in a closed session to discuss him and his professional qualifications and proposal to file a complaint against him with the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.
The complaint claims Gausman attempted to bribe Michaelson and George on Nov. 17, 2021, before their official swearing-in on Nov. 22, 2022.
In the BOEE complaint, Greenwell references the Jan. 24 meeting, stating the board was given a detailed narrative of the alleged bribery offer.
To go into the closed session, the board cited the Iowa Code stating the closed session was to “evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring, performance or discharge is being considered when necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to that individual’s reputation.”
The code section specifically states that the individual being reviewed must request the closed session, as well as meet other requirements Gausman claims did not occur.
In the petition, Gausman stated he would have been entitled to require the meeting to be public and get public video, audio and minutes.
In the BOEE complaint, Greenwell also claims Gausman disclosed confidential information from a meeting on March 28, 222 to staff members. It states Gausman acquired information from the closed session from Board Member Perla Alarcon-Flory and shared it with cabinet members.
The closed session on March 28 cited a different code section stating the meeting was to “review or discuss records which are required or authorized by state or federal law to be kept confidential.”
After the meeting, Gausman claims Alarcon-Flory approached him, asking if it was legal to cite that code section when the “session was not about confidential records but it was instead about Dr. Gausman’s performance and personnel issues related to him.”
Gausman believes this meeting was to “lay the groundwork” for filing an educational examiner's complaint. Because of this, he believes it was not a legal closed session and he is entitled to the minutes and recordings of the meeting.
On Nov. 30, 2022, the board held another special meeting and closed session to discuss Gausman, he alleges.
The board cited the same code section as March 28, stating the meeting was to “review or discuss records which are required or authorized by state or federal law to be kept confidential.”
This code section specifically states the board is only allowed to discuss the confidential record and Gausman claims it went beyond that.
He also alleges the board again discussed his professional competency, job performance and the possible filing of a complaint with the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.
After the closed session ended and the board went into an open session, Goodvin made a motion to direct Greenwell to file the complaint. Scarlett and Scolaro abstained from the vote, and Alarcon-Flory was not present. The motion did not state who the complaint was being filed against. Greenwell filed the complaint on Dec. 2, 2022.
Gausman states he did not consent to the closed session and the district violated his “right to fair notice and consent.”
Because of the potential open meeting law violations, Gausman claims he is entitled to the information requested.