The Fort Smith School District Board of Education has rejected an offer from a local attorney to settle a pending lawsuit concerning admitted violations of the Freedom of Information Act in an email controversy in which a slate of officers was discussed in violation of FOIA.
Joey McCutchen announced on Wednesday that he had sent an offer to the legal representation of the Board of Education on December 22 waiving all cost and attorney fees if the board would agree to three conditions; sign the consent agreement legally acknowledging the violation, put on record their intent to avoid future violations and agree to FOIA training for all board members.
McCutchen had set a deadline of close of business on December 27 for a response and called a press conference on Wednesday after receiving an official response to not accept the offer. During that press conference he received a notice from the school district announcing a meeting on December 29 to address the issue.
“I received notice of a school board meeting on December 29th to “discuss the pending FOI violation lawsuit” while I was a press conference discussing the Fort Smith Board of Education’s decision yesterday to decline my “offer of settlement” which had a deadline of December 27,” said McCutchen. “Specifically, the school board, through their attorney, refused to agree to the entry of a consent judgment declaring that the emails attached to my complaint violated FOIA.”
“Now, the Fort Smith taxpayers may be on the hook for substantial costs and attorney fees, if June Bradshaw prevails in her FOIA lawsuit,” said McCutchen. “They had a deadline. I didn’t receive a response or request for an extension.”
FSSD Board of Education President Dr. Deanie Mehl did not respond to a call to her cell phone or respond to emails concerning the matter as of 1 P.M. on Wednesday.
“The concern about the cost of defending this lawsuit by the Board is the only reason I made the settlement offer I did,” McCutchen said. “The district has already spent $55,000 in legal fees defending the lawsuit concerning the Southside mascot change that is before the Arkansas Supreme Court.
“I would much rather they spend the money on fixing the roof at Southside, buying materials for classrooms, updating equipment….but they seem to think fighting lawsuits over stuff they have already admitted to doing is a more prudent way to utilize tax payer dollars.”