Kevin Rupp – pioneering the use of the school board purge

Readers of of my blog have ample examples of my regard for our School District’s attorney Kevin Rupp.

Its the law spelled out in the last post that he is currently mining to remove School Board members. Art Johnston, his current quarry, has briefly described three recent cases of Mr. Rupp’s pioneering work. So far its garnered Mr. Rupp about $100,000 from the Duluth School District since the crusade to remove Art began last June.

Art explained these three cases in a letter he wrote to the MSBA’s (Minnesota School Board Association) staff. Here is an excerpt:

On the other hand school board members can, and have been removed for minor claims;such removal is not under the purview of a court of law; and believe it or not, such removal can be done without a recall petition, rather it can be done with only a vote of four fellow school board member. The school board can bypasses the vote of the people that elected the ousted members. Literally, the school board becomes the judge, jury, and executioner of the removed member; and the sole elector of a replacement member. What’s happening here is not a hypothetical situation. I will give three recent examples:

(details are thought to be accurate, but are based on second-hand information or news

Farmington, 2010. A board member was charged with various things, like disclosure of attorney/client material, data practice disclosures, and making a motion to have his incurred attorney fees paid for by the school. Most sources said this was a vendetta between the Superintendent and Board member asking questions. There was an investigation and hearing conducted by judges and attorneys hired by the district. There was no malfeasance or nonfeasance in the claims. The board censured the wayward member, and unsuccessfully asked the County and city attorneys to file criminal charges as a basis for removal. cost $20,000 to $40,000 in legal fees.

St. Francis, 2013. A board member was charged with plagiarism, despite the board member having evidence of permission to copy an article. Those selected and paid for by the district conducted the investigation and hearing. There was no malfeasance or nonfeasance claims. The board originally censored the wayward members, but after he filed a data practice act request against the Superintendent, the board moved to remove him. The charged board member did not seek legal assistance and had no money to defend himself.

Result: Lots of bad PR; and in the next election those board members supporting removal were not reelected, and the Superintendent is now on
administrative leave.

Duluth, June 2014 to present. This is involving me so I won’t go into details except that there are no claims of malfeasance or nonfeasance, nor any criminal claims being brought forward. An investigator was hired by the district’s attorney and found the original charges to be unfounded, but that I violated school policy. A hearing has not occurred yet. Such hearing would be conducted by and presided over at the choice of the district’s lawyer, and would be outside any court of law.

Result: Lots of bad PR and chaos at board meetings. This case has generated a lot of regional coverage. There has been a lot of damage to the school reputation. Estimated cost to date: $80,000 to $100,000 (including my attorney fees). No scheduled hearing, but pending. Expected to go on for quite some time, and much more costly.

These three cases show the ugliness that is taking place, the lack of due process being
used by Districts and Superintendents, and the difficulty and costliness that the targeted board member suffers in trying to get a neutral hearing. It also shows that all these cases have all occurred without proof, or even claims, of malfeasance.

And it also shows that Superintendents are usually the driving force behind the removal, and that Boards can abuse the system and go after fellow Board members for less than honorable reasons.

In talking to other school board members across the state, these situations are becoming more common, and there is an unsettled nervousness about this happening to them, and a fear to speak up.

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