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Henry Sibley Principal's $64,590 Payout Draws Questions from Open Government Advocates

The West St. Paul School district isn't saying why Henry Sibley Principal Robin Percival received a $64,590 termination package this week.

The West St. Paul school district paid Henry Sibley High School principal Robin Percival $64,590 to resign—but the district's not saying why Percival resigned or why she received a payout.

The secretive termination agreement has rehashed old debates among lawmakers, lawyers and freedom of information advocates.

State Rep. Pam Myhra, author of a 2012 termination disclosure law, told the Star Tribune that the school district was obligated to provide more information.

"The intent of the bill was that taxpayers and parents would be able to have more information about what happened and the reasons money was paid out," Myhra told the Pioneer Press.

The district is maintaining that by staying mum through the remainder of the school year, it is complying with "the letter and the spirit" of the law.

But critics have drawn comparisons with Tania Chance scandal in Burnsville that inspired Myrha's legislation. Chance, the executive director of human resources at Independent School District 191, . District officials initially refused to say why, but it was eventually revealed that she was given the severance payment in exchange for dropping a complaint filed against Superintendent Randall Clegg.

Rick Neumeister, a privacy advocate who helped Myrha write her termination disclosure law, told the Star Tribune that the Percival's resignation from Henry Sibley was "Burnsville II."

"It's legal balderdash, and everyone knows what balderdash means," he said. "The public has a right to know why $64,000 was paid out."

The Star Tribune has more about the school district's legal argument:

But the district maintains that another clause in the statute overrides this because it says such data are not public if an employee is not disciplined or leaves after the investigation is complete, which apparently is what happened with Percival.

Sara Ruff, the district's attorney, said the school board has released all data it believes are public, and that providing a more specific reason for the dismissal would open the district to possible legal action.

"I believe they have been transparent," Ruff said of school district officials, who she said are "following the spirit and letter of the law."

Hilger said the district investigated a complaint against Percival. But she would not say who filed the complaint, when it was filed, when the investigation began, when it was completed, when the superintendent became aware of it, when the school board was informed or when Percival was offered the separation agreement, which the district released Wednesday.

"I don't believe that data is public," Ruff said.

 

Peter February 12, 2013 at 06:10 PM
From the article above - Borger suggested that if the district is serious about that then it could follow the Burnsville example and let the Department of Administration make a ruling, which would free the school district of legal liability. Why isn't the school board getting this ruling?
Becky Anderson February 13, 2013 at 04:34 AM
An entity or person needs to request a Data Privacy Advisory Opinion. Information on how that is done is found on the Minnesota Department of Administration's Web site. It can be done without an attorney. The School Board acted and, for more information to be made public, the School Board's action would need to be challenged.

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