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Request denied

Published 1:02pm Thursday, April 12, 2012

Court: County BOE’s decision to close Edward Bell School will not be overturned

Circuit Court Judge Ray Martin issued an order Tuesday denying several requests to overturn portions of a May 9, 2011 order that dealt with an Open Meetings Act violation by the Tallapoosa County Board of Education.

Tuesday’s order denied the request for injunctive relief to invalidate the action taken to close Edward Bell School, as well as several other requests.

The May 9, 2011 preliminary hearing found that the Tallapoosa County Board of Education had, in fact, violated the OMA.

“The court had found on May 9 that there had been a violation of the Open Meetings Act by failing to post notification of a board meeting on the bulletin board at the central office,” said Mark Allen Treadwell, who defended the Tallapoosa County BOE.

Eric Hutchins represented the plaintiffs in the case, which are listed on the order as Frank Holley, et. al.

In addition to a summary judgment declaring that an OMA violation had occurred, the plaintiffs were seeking invalidation of the actions that occurred during the March 7 meeting of the board, in which board members made the decision to close Edward Bell School.

“The thrust of the plaintiffs’ complaint was they wanted to enter into an injunctive order prohibiting the board from closing Edward Bell,” Treadwell said.

Treadwell said that the evidence showed that the board took every action to post notice of its meeting except for posting a copy on the bulletin board at the office.
“They sent copies of notice of the meeting to all the schools and made the meeting known to the public by four different outlets,” Treadwell said. “The process they undertook was more labor intensive and took much more effort than simply tacking a notice to a bulletin board.”

The final hearing ruled once again that the violation was the result of inadvertence, mistake or excusable neglect.

Had this portion of the original order been overturned, the plaintiffs could have sought to have the actions taken in the March 7, 2011, meeting invalidated under the OMA.

“There is a provision of the Open Meetings Act that says that if the entity violates the act by inadvertence or excusable neglect, the court would not invalidate any actions,” Treadwell said.

A request to levy civil penalties on the individual board members was also denied.

The order stated there were no additional courses of action available to the plaintiffs under the OMA that had not been previously granted.

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