Angst case lands in court
R. Mickey Angst
A hearing was held Thursday in Carbon County court on a petition filed by the Panther Valley School District to bar a school board member from attending executive sessions.
After hearing several hours of testimony and argument, Judge Joseph J. Matika took the matter under advisement and will issue an opinion at a later date.
The board wants the court to issue an order barring R. Mickey Angst from not only attending executive meetings, but not to disperse confidential and privileged information to the public.
The board has accused Angst of using his Internet blog to release sensitive material concerning personnel matters, including releasing information on teacher contract negotiations, and other items deemed confidential or privilege.
In August 2008 the board barred Angst from attending executive sessions because he was releasing confidential information. At that time the information concerned teacher contract negotiations.
Yesterday Angst, who represented himself at the meeting, said 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.
He also denied that he ever released any confidential information he heard at an executive session, claiming the information he puts on is blog was gathered from other sources which he confirmed.
During the lengthy proceeding, district solicitor Robert Yurchak argued that Angst's claim of freedom of speech is not absolute. He said Angst took an oath when he became a board member and that was to discharge his duties with fidelity. He said Angst's actions in releasing confidential and privilege information is compromising the service of the other eight board members.
Among witnesses called were current school board President Jeff Markovich, board members David Hiles and Anthony DeMarco, Superintendent Rosemary Porembo, Yurchak and Angst.
Markovich said matters discussed at executive sessions include personnel, hirings and discipline matters. He claimed Angst would post on his blog pending hirings by the board and one time released details of the board planned negotiations with the school teachers.
He said he feared Angst's actions would subject the district to grievances and possible lawsuits.
Hiles supported Markovich's remarks and added that he was not comfortable discussing personnel matters about possible employee hirings, because what he said was to be private, but feared Angst would put it out to the public.
Yurchak testified that he attends all executive sessions and when asked, advised the board on legal matters and interpretation. He also offers legal opinions on what matters discussed should be considered privileged and confidential.
Angst argued that he has a right to release information as a citizen.
He was questioned by attorney Cindy Ray, who was co-counsel for the district because of Yurchak being called as a witness, about his separation of being a school director and a former news reporter.
Angst said when he first became a board member that was all he was, but he changed his opinion when, he claimed, he felt the board was doing some things illegally, including matters at the executive sessions.
Yurchak argued Angst has a responsibility to follow the oath he took as a board member. He said his actions have put himself above the other eight members and that is not right. He said no one board member has any more rights than the next one.
Angst argued that the barring of him from the executive sessions keeps him from fulfilling his duties as a board member. He also reiterated that he has never released any confidential information that he gained at an executive session.
The suit asks Matika to issue an order directing Angst not to reveal any confidential information; banned him from all further executive sessions until his term expires; preclude him from receiving any and all confidential material issued by the district; and preclude him from disclosing any confidential material pertaining to the operation and/or maintenance of the district no matter how he obtains such information.
Matika gave each side 10 days to submit any legal briefs or other court decisions that they feel supports their positions. He said after that he will review all matters and issue an opinion.