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SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Press will appeal a 4th Judicial District Court decision regarding the legality of closed sessions held by the Sheridan County School District 2 board of trustees.
The appeal was filed with the Wyoming Supreme Court and was sent to the 4th Judicial District Court for filing on Monday.
The appeal is in response to Judge William Edelman’s ruling regarding the case brought by The Press against the school district.
The Sheridan Press filed a petition to the court in February for the release of executive session meeting minutes related to a proposed $45 million multi-purpose recreational facility discussed by the school district in closed meetings.
Information about the facility was first brought to the public’s attention at a semi-public forum regarding educational goals in Sheridan County in January. At that forum, then Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey said he felt the $45 million could be better spent on the education of the community’s children.
Following several public information requests to the school district, as well as Sheridan College, documents showed that the school district was considering a bond issue as soon as the spring of 2014 for the project.
The project had never been discussed in public meetings.
In July, Edelman ruled that the school district had followed the Open Meetings Act, but did not specify what exemption under that act allowed the district to discuss the project in private. The Press asks the Wyoming Supreme Court to rule on whether the district court provided sufficient findings and conclusion in the judgement to allow for meaningful review.
In addition, The Press argues whether the judge should have applied the “deliberative process” privilege to the case, an action that could have lasting impacts on government openness.
“The deliberative process privilege was not briefed by either party,” Moats said after Edelman issued his decision. “The court said the public records and public meetings acts are analogous and essentially grafted the deliberative process privilege on to the Public Meetings Act.
“I fear the result is that governing bodies may go into executive session for any discussion that is ‘pre-decisional and deliberative,’ regardless of whether it fits any of the express provisions for executive session in the Public Meetings Act,” Moats continued. “This would allow nearly any discussion that might lead to a decision to be held in executive session. I believe that would fit the great majority of discussions held by governing bodies.”
The Press also asks the Wyoming Supreme Court to consider whether the district court erred by failing to unseal pleadings that were filed.
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