One would have thought Indian Hills, which is still under close scrutiny for the games it has played regarding the departure of two baseball coaches last year and the explosive allegations by former players, would have made sure there was no doubt about whether it was following open meetings and records laws.
But that’s just not the way the current administration and board approach things.
On Monday, the trustees held a closed session for two hours, which in itself is not problematic. Closed sessions to discuss a situation regarding employees is clearly one of the exemptions to the state’s open meetings law.
What is much less clear is whether the board then followed the intent of the law in rejecting a recommendation from President Marlene Sprouse and enacting a 90-day suspension of an employee without pay. The law requires that the public be reasonably advised of what a vote concerns, and there are far too many questions remaining for that to have been met.
Iowa law does not allow a governmental body to vote “To accept the recommendation we received in closed session,” or something similar. Such a move is an end-run around the law and is far too vague to meet the legal requirements. It’s what Indian Hills has done, though, and it’s now part of a pattern.
Indian Hills has spent most of the past year grasping for any fig leaf, however flimsy, to cover its continuing refusal to meet even the most basic requirements of keeping the public informed of how it manages employees. Those employees, we would remind you, are paid out of the public pocketbook. Indian Hills is funded through taxpayers, and their employees are as well.
When the school’s head basketball coach was arrested and charged with driving while drunk, the Courier asked for a copy of his contract. What we received was a letter, just as in the case with the Daily Iowegian’s investigation into the baseball program. We have yet to receive other documents we have requested, which include Indian Hills’ employee handbook.
Indian Hills’ continuing claim that it handles contracts for its coaches via letter, rather than having clear terms spelled out, is farcical. Either the school is so slipshod that it believes letters couched in general terms are a replacement for contracts with clear performance requirements, duties and compensation, or it is refusing to release public records. There can be no other explanations.
If this was happening at one of the public universities in Iowa, it’s clear there would be a major uproar statewide. Indian Hills continues to bank on its comparatively low profile, betting that there will be no repercussions.
Indian Hills is playing a dangerous game, one that could have severe repercussions for the school and for the trustees individually should they be charged with violating the state’s open meetings laws.
We continue to urge the trustees and administration to do what is right in both the legal and ethical senses. Errors can be corrected up to a certain point, but the school is rapidly approaching the point of no return.