School District May Have Violated State Meetings Act

School District May Have Violated State Meetings Act

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LAYTON, Utah (AP) -- The Davis School District has violated the Utah Open Meetings Act by closing an advisory committee meeting to the public and news media, a Salt Lake City attorney said.

Meetings of the Boundary Advisory Committee has met behind closed doors on six occasions and the practice is expected to continue, according to the district.

The policy of closed meetings has been in place since 1999 and was revised in 2002, district spokesman Chris Williams said.

"Their policy does not trump state policy," said Jeff Hunt, an attorney who works with Utah's chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists.

The 39-member advisory committee is charged with recommending new boundaries for Davis County schools to accommodate the opening a new Syracuse high school in 2007.

District policy sets special committees apart from state law and are not open, Williams said. The meetings are closed so that committee members are not distracted by questions from the public, Williams said.

"It's a working meeting," he said.

The public or the news media can attend meetings if permission is obtained from a committee chairman. The Ogden Standard Examiner was denied permission to attend a Nov. 2 meeting of the boundary committee.

"I think (the district) policy is at odds with state law," said Hunt, who is appealing the decision on behalf of the newspaper.

The intent of the state's Open Meetings Act is for the public to see the deliberations behind recommendations. A specific portion of the law applies to advisory committees, Hunt said.

But district officials said the policy is based on state law.

The advisory committee is expected to make a final recommendation about school boundaries to the county school board Nov. 21.

Despite closed meetings, the process has been open to public input through a series of open houses, Williams said. The district has also received thousands of letters and e-mails, he said.


Information from: Standard-Examiner,

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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