In a 31 page memorandum opinion a Carbon County judge has denied the Panther Valley school board from banning one of its members of attending executive meetings. But the court sided with the board in its request in limiting the same board member from disclosure and dissemination of confidential and privileged information or material.
Judge Joseph J. Matika made the ruling in the case involving R. Mickey Angst and the Panther Valley Board of School Directors.
In his opinion, the court cites numerous state and federal court rulings dealing with the rights of indiviuals under the U.S. Constitution and that of the Commonwealth.
The board of directors filed a civil action against Angst claiming he was disclosing confidential information discussed at executive sessions on the internet for his blog.
The board said Angst was releasing sensitive material concerning personnel matters, including releasing information on teacher contract negotiations, and other items deemed confidential or privileged.
Angst argued that he was releasing information as not only a board member but a citizen and said it was his 'freedom of speech" right to do it.
Matika wrote concerning banning Angst from executive sessions, "insofar as such ban on Angst attending executive sessions of the full Board of Directors and its committees is illegal and uneforceable, and Angst, as an elected official has a duty to attend such executive sessions of the Board as a whole or commitee meetings, and to receive at or in anticipation of an executive session any and all confidential or privileged information or material in furtherance of his duties and responsibilitiies as a member of the Board of Directors of the Panther Valley School District."
Matika did side with the board in its request concerning Angst releasing confidential information.
Matika wrote, "regarding the disclosure and dissemination of confidential and privileged information or material by R. Mickey Angst, as such, Angst is prohibited from disclosing or disseminating any confidential or privileged information or material, regardless of how Angst may obtain such information or material, relating to the operation and administration of Panther Valley School District until such time as the Board of Directors of the Panther Valley School District authorizes such dislcosure when such disclosure is necessary for the conducting of School District business."
Matika noted in his opinion that denying Angst confidential information was denying him the right to carry out his duties as an elected school board member. "Each school board member has a duty and obligation to govern the School District of Panther Valley, and by precluding Angst from the receipt of confidential and privileged information or materials, Panther Valley has effectively assured that Angst cannot fully, knowingly, and intelligently perform his duty as a school board member insofar as him becoming knowledgeable of certain matters and being able to decide critical issues that would otherwise allow for a well-informed vote to be cast in the best interests of Panther Valley School District," Matika wrote.
Matika concluded,"As such, Panther Valley's decision to preclude Angst from receiving confidential and privileged information or material at or in anticipation of an executive session is illegal and unenforceable."
Addressing the request to enjoin Angst from disclosing any confidential or privileged material relating to operation of the school district, Matika sided with the school board.
Matika wrote, "Angst, as a school board member, has a legal and ethical obligation to Panther Valley, fellow members of the School Board, and the electorate to keep certain information and material confidential until the appropriate time as determined by the Board of Directors as a whole."
Matika added, 'In addition, besides having a duty not to prematurely publish or blog about confidential personnel issues, involving Panther Valley until discussed by the Board of Directors as a whole at a general meeting, or after the Board's solicitor approves such publication, Angst, pursuant to the mandates of the attorney-client privileges, has an obligationn and a duty not to discuss contractual and legal information or material learned at executive sessions, or such information or material prepared by the Board's solicitor and provided to the school board members with the intent that such information or material be privileged for only those shcool board members."
Both parties have a right to appeal the decision.