Earlier this week Indiana Department of Education Superintendent Glenda Ritz filed a lawsuit against 10 IDOE board members for allegedly violating the state’s Open Door law after seeking action on the A-F grading system without Ritz present (see related). Today, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has taken measures to stop the lawsuit in its tracks.
According to court documents, Zoeller filed a motion to strike “the appearances and complaint.” Zoeller based his request on Indiana Code 4-6-2-1 which, in part, states only the attorney general can prosecute and defend lawsuits instituted by or against the state. Further, he cites several previous court rulings which found no state official may hire or utilize private counsel to represent him/herself in an official capacity.
Zoeller asked that attorneys Bernice A.N. Corely and Michael G. Moore, who filed the suit for Ritz, to be stricken from the suit.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence supports Zoeller saying in a statement released after the announcement of the lawsuit that he “strongly supports the actions taken by the bipartisan membership of the State Board of Education to ensure the timely completion of last year’s A-F school accountability grades.”
Pence is confident that all relevant Indiana laws were followed. Because teachers and schools depend on these letter grades for salary increases, performance bonuses and federal funding, he said he will continue to work in good faith with the State Board of Education and the Indiana Department of Education to get the job done for the schools and students.
In a statement to the public, Ritz stated, “… (on) Tuesday, I filed suit against 10 members of the State Board of Education individually over their violation of Indiana’s Open Door Law. Specifically, I believe that these members took official action outside of a public meeting, in secret, without any notice to the public, or even to myself.
“Let me be clear, the letter that the members of the Board sent to Republican Legislative Leadership asking that LSA take over A-F grading was done without public notice, approval or even public opportunity to comment. I have always believed that fair, open and transparent decision-making is best and it is disappointing to learn that the Board took action in a different manner.
“When I was sworn in to office, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Indiana. I take this oath very seriously and I was dismayed to learn that other members of the State Board have not complied with the requirements of the law. While I respect the commitment and expertise of members of the board individually, they have collectively over-stepped their bounds.
“Since Tuesday, I have spoken with the Attorney General and he has indicated a desire to bring the parties together to seek resolution of this issue. I want to say that I appreciate his involvement and while I welcome the opportunity to reach resolution, I believe that the Board’s action violated Indiana law and that this case is important. In the event that out of court resolution is not possible, the courts may be the Department’s only recourse.”