The nearly quarter million dollars allocated to the former Blackfoot school superintendent was intended to remain a secret, documents suggest.
The Blackfoot School District voted in private to pay Scott Crane as part of a separation agreement.
It's a story Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News have been following and digging into for months. Earlier this year, we requested Crane's contract. The district sent us every employee's contract except Crane's.
It's just one move in what the attorney for the plaintiff said was an effort to keep the payout secret.
The school district here took a lot of steps to hide this, to keep the public from knowing, said Blackfoot attorney Jared Harris. He said the payout to Crane was intended to remain under wraps.
“They set up the whole defense in advance and agreed not to disclose it,” he said. He said the proof is on paper – in the fifth clause of Crane's April 20th separation agreement with the district: “In any action brought to enforce the public's right to inspect and copy this agreement, the district shall respond to and defend such action on the basis that this agreement is part of the superintendent's personnel file.”
“They are charged with being responsible for the public's money. And what they're doing here, is they're contractually agreeing to hide where they're spending the money,” said Harris, who said this doesn't sit well at all. “They are, by doing it this way, saying, 'We're going to make it very difficult for anyone to find it out.'"
In the court order to release the documents last week, Judge David Nye said that “everything about this case smacks of a public agency trying to hide its decision making from the public.”
But it is out now. Harris today praised district patron Joyce Bingham for bringing the lawsuit to expose the payment, saying she had a lot to lose, and nothing personal to gain.
We did contact all five Blackfoot School Board members for comment, and District Superintendent Chad Struhs. They did not wish to comment.
The district has issued an apology.
Because there was a violation of Idaho's open meeting law in the development of the separation agreement, it is likely the agreement will have to be resigned in a public meeting.
See a PDF of the full employee separation agreement at http://goo.gl/ZxXAL.