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Neb. high court upholds bond vote despite secrecy charge

By The Associated Press
01.18.10

OMAHA, Neb. — The Nebraska Supreme Court on Jan. 15 upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit on a $3.8 million school bond, clearing the way for a new school to be built. A group of 27 Knox County residents in northeast Nebraska had filed a lawsuit that argued the Verdigre Public Schools board repeatedly violated open-meetings laws in early 2008 before pushing for the school bond, which was approved by voters 316-284 in November 2008.

The group contended the board posted notice that it would hold a meeting in March 2008 for school board members only, and that there were at least six secret meetings that included five or more of the board members between April and August 2008 without notice, an agenda or public participation.

The Knox County residents sued in early 2009, saying the alleged open-meetings violations should invalidate the November vote. School officials have denied that secret meetings were held.

The Nebraska Supreme Court sided with school officials, who argued that the group's complaint was moot because the validity of an election cannot be challenged or remedied under Nebraska's open-meeting laws. If the group had wanted to challenge the election, it would have had to prove voter fraud or infringement of a voter's civil rights at the polls, the court said.

Had the group wanted to argue that school board meetings were held illegally, it could have done so under the state's open-meetings laws before the bond election, the high court said.

The group's attorney, Thomas Delay of Norfolk, said Jan. 15 that he had not seen the ruling and had no comment. The school board's attorney, John Recknor of Lincoln, said school officials were happy with the ruling and are "already in the process of getting in contact with the bonding company" to begin issuing bonds.

"This should clear the way for them to proceed with construction of the new school ... within this year," Recknor said. School officials have said the district is in dire need of a new school to replace the outdated one built in the early 1900s.


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