Censure is infectious

Our Attorney, Kevin Rupp, belongs to a law firm that has become expert in the sanctioning wayward school board members. They were behind what ended up being a failed attempt to remove the Farmington board member in 2010 that got Judy Seliga-Punyko so excited as she contemplated removing Gary Glass.

They’ve been in the news over the weekend for advising the South Washington County School Board which just censured one of its own. Here’s one of several summaries in the news.

Unlike my censure this one involved data relating to an employee. The board member in question passed on information which she came by in the course of being around the schools. However, this info was also given to board members by the attorneys in data private confidence. The majority chose to believe that this widely rumored private data had come from the legal counsel. Unlike Art or me the South Washington County Board member who was censured seems quite stricken and pledges to mend her ways.

As it happens a Fox News station made a public data request that makes the whole issue of private data highly suspect because they were given a 99 page file on the employee whose privacy the Board was intent on preserving. That’s a third longer than Mary Rice’s report on Art Johnston and the alleged misdeeds far exceed anything leveled against Art. The actions of this School Board support my contention that one of the chief functions of data privacy laws is to cover up misdeeds. The primary protection accrues to bad guys and bureaucracies that make use of the privacy to quietly leverage embarrassing information to get rid of bad actors.

Its clear from the report, should it be true, that few school districts would want such a fellow to become a principal. But keeping this damaging information under wraps is almost as good as a positive reference. This Board member who got the information in an entirely predictable manner now faces the prospect of removal if she ever lets any more cats out of the bag. I’m inclined to think this action shameful rather than think of it as being law abiding. Some laws are very flawed and so it seems to me is this use of data privacy.

My offense thus far – the one I was censured for – did not involve any personnel’s private data. My mistake was to report the sale price of our District’s Central property which could have put the sale in jeopardy. Like the South Washington board member I am much abashed – about this justification for my censure. I feel no shame for handing over our attorney’s advice on how to deal with Art Johnston which was also among the reasons the majority of my board voted to censure me. You see we too have a bad actor. I blame this one for an overzealous campaign to harass Art Johnston and boy did it ever bear fruit – nine months of hell to put another notch on Kevin Rupp’s gun belt.

This explains why I feel no shame for handing over the legal advice relating to Art to the press. I believe our attorney is actively protecting a bad penny to help the Board majority remove Art. And now Mr. Rupp may have an entirely more personal reason for removing my only ally from the School Board. I’ve made no secret that I believe the new school board will lean far more closely to my views on the District’s sorry finances and management. I think Mr. Rupp would love to put his finger into the Duluth school board election by helping remove a Board member who has more reason than ever to question our hiring a generously paid character assassin.

Of course, that’s not the only service Mr. Rupp has provided our District. Among his other triumphs is helping negotiate one of the richest teacher’s contracts in Minnesota. Last year Duluth was about 15th out of 300 school districts in terms of teacher’s salary and that was for one of the poorest districts in the state. That’s not the best way to go about hiring more teachers and reduce our horrendous class sizes but it is a good way to assure teacher burn out.