David Wise's lawsuit against the Clay Community school board was partly one of form over substance according to the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Wise contended the school board acted illegally when it named Robert Atkinson to fill a school board seat vacated by Rick Spencer.
Wise had appealed a lower court ruling in favor of the school board by Special Judge Thomas E. Johnson in Clay Circuit Court on Oct. 4, 2002.
According to a decision summary given to The Times by school board member Jon Hull, "The court determined that Rick Spencer's position on the board became vacant on June 3, 2002, when Mr. Spencer submitted his resignation to the board. The court reasoned that Mr. Spencer's submission of his resignation was notice to the board of his intent to abandon his office and this created a vacancy on the board. Once a vacancy was created by Mr. Spencer's resignation, the board had the statutory authority to fill that vacancy.
"Mr. Wise argued that Mr. Spencer's resignation was not effective until August 1, 2002, when it was filed with the Clerk of the Clay County Circuit Court. According to Wise, there was no vacancy until Mr. Spencer's resignation was effective.
"The court dismissed this argument stating that it placed form over common sense."
Wise also contended the school board violated Indiana's Open Door Law.
Again, quoting the summary: "The court held that the board did not violate the Indiana Open Door Law. The Indiana Open Door Law permits the board to meet in executive session to consider applications when the board is considering the appointment of a public official.
"The court agreed with the board that the presentations given to the board by the interested candidates on June 10, 2002 were applications and not interviews. In doing so, the court dismissed Wise's contention that applications must be in written form.
"Additionally, the court decided that the board did not act improperly or violate the Indiana Open Door Law when it refused to allow Mr. Wise to resubmit his name for consideration during the executive session after he had voluntarily removed it during the public meeting. The court stated that there was no merit to Wise's argument on this point."
Commenting on the decision. Hull said, "While we are very excited about the results we have always felt confident that the board operated within the legal guidelines. I hope the decision sends a clear message so Mr. Wise doesn't decide to pursue this issue any further. If he truly cares about kids and the taxpayers of this community like he stated in The Brazil Times, he won't have the School board waste any additional tax dollars defending a Corporation and board that has been found not guilty on all accounts by two different courts and the Indiana School board Association."
Wise said of the decision, "I have not even seen it yet. I've not even been able to talk to my attorney yet."
Wise has been out of town and plans to speak with his attorney before expressing an opinion on the court's decision.