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Open records law backs disclosures by school district attorney

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         MISSOURI         Freedom of Information         May 9, 2001    

Open records law backs disclosures by school district attorney

  • Confirming a settlement reached between a public school district and former employee did not breach a confidentiality agreement, according to a state appeals court.

A St. Louis school district does not have to pay $10,000 to a former employee who claimed an attorney breached a confidentiality agreement in her settlement of a gender discrimination lawsuit.

According to a Missouri appellate court, the state open records law required the Mehlville School District to disclose the fact it settled a case with former girls’ track coach Pamela Calvert. In May 1998, an attorney for the district, Peter Yelkovac, confirmed to a St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter that the district resolved a gender discrimination lawsuit Calvert brought in 1997. A month later, the school superintendent and another attorney for the district also indicated the existence of a settlement in articles in the Concord Call (St. Louis) and the Suncrest Call (St. Louis).

Calvert claimed that these disclosures violated a portion of the settlement agreement that prevented the district from publicizing or disclosing the agreement.

A trial court in St. Louis ruled in favor of Calvert in September 2000 and ordered the district to pay her $10,000 in damages.

In reversing the lower court, the appellate court pegged much of its May 1 decision on open meetings and open records law.

Since the district voted on the terms of the settlement, the appeals court said, it must publicly disclose the outcome of the vote. Furthermore, the court said the district did not violate the confidentiality agreement because the settlement with Calvert allowed the district to reveal information it was required to disclose under the state’s open records law.

(Calvert v. Mehlville R-IX School District) CC

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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