Share story

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Springfield teacher is suing the Missouri Board of Education over a closed session it held last week to discuss plans for removing Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Laurie Sullivan claims the board “purposefully violated” the state’s open meetings law when members held a closed meeting Nov. 21 to decide who from southwest Missouri would be able to vote on Vandeven’s future, The Springfield News-Leader reported .

Gov. Eric Greitens had appointed and then removed Tim Sumners of Joplin and Missy Gelner of Springfield to the board, apparently because they had not agreed to vote to remove Vandeven. He appointed a third person, Jennifer Edwards of Springfield, hours before the meeting.

Edwards and Sumners attended the closed meeting, and Gelner participated by phone. Only Edwards was allowed to vote.

The lawsuit claims Greitens “has not removed” Sumners or Gelner, nor did he provide them with due process required by state law. Sumners filed a separate lawsuit Tuesday, suing Greitens and the state board to challenge his removal from the board.

Sullivan’s attorney, Duane Martin, notified the board before the meeting that “any discussion regarding the seating or appointment of a new or additional State Board member” would violate the state’s open meetings law, which requires public entities to post agendas before the meeting outlining planned actions and discussion items.

The agenda for the Nov. 21 meeting did not include an agenda item related to who would be seated and vote as southwest Missouri’s representative, the lawsuit said. Because of that violation, any discussion of membership and voting privileges would not be legal, the lawsuit said.

Sullivan is asking the Cole County Circuit Court to rule that the board violated the open meetings law and void any action it took. She also wants the court to block the board from recognizing anyone as southwest Missouri’s official member until a majority of the board votes in “a lawfully convened public meeting” or the state Senate confirms a permanent appointee.

The board is scheduled to meet Friday, where Vandeven’s employment is expected to be discussed again.

A spokeswoman for the education board did not immediately return a request for a response Wednesday.


Information from: Springfield News-Leader,