It was a big day for the Traverse City Area Public Schools and the transparency movement. Today, Judge Elsenheimer ruled that TCAPS has to disclose the big secret document that led to Ann Cardon’s departure.
In case you haven’t been following, here’s the rundown:
- Ann Cardon became the new TCAPS superintendent.
- Only a few months later, someone filed a complaint about her.
- There was a closed-session meeting to discuss the complaint.
- Cardon departed from TCAPS shortly after the meeting. Taxpayers paid a boatload to her in a separation agreement.
- TCAPS won’t give up the complaint. They say it’s exempt from disclosure under Freedom of Information Act laws because it was part of a closed-session meeting.
The Record Eagle took the issue to the 13th Circuit Court and Judge Elsenheimer.
Today was the decision.
Elsenheimer said that the law is clear that TCAPS can’t make the document exempt from disclosure by making it part of a closed session. He said that the laws are to be construed in favor of disclosure.
Judge Elsenheimer began referring to the document as the “Kelly document.” Is that a sign that the document is authored by Ms. Kelly herself?
TCAPS immediately jumped on it with a question about staying the release of the document pending appeal. Whatever is so bad in the document they’re going through the time, effort and expense to continue to fight its release. That can’t possibly for Ms. Cardon’s benefit; she no longer has a relationship with the district, and if they really cared about her they wouldn’t have treated her the way they did to begin with. So whatever is in this “Kelly document,” there is something in it that someone really doesn’t want us to see.
Elsenheimer also ruled that TCAPS did not violate the Open Meetings Act by having Jim Pavelka all teed up to step into the interim superintendent roll. To me, this looked like throwing TCAPS a bone in hopes of looking even and trying to make each side “win” something. Obviously Pavelka was in the bag before the meeting. Oh well, the Record Eagle won the one that mattered.
Elsenheimer’s ruling took too long. There’s no reason that decision needed to take as long as it did.