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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

McCutchen files suit against Cabot School District over boards failure to follow FOIA protocol

Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen filed a Complaint against the Cabot School District on behalf of his client Jimmie Cavin last week,

The Complaint alleges that the Cabot School Board violated FOIA by illegally approving a resolution on February 15, 2022 to increase Cabot School District Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman's salary to $251,327 and extend his contract through June 30, 2025.

The Resolution was signed by Board President Joe Trusty and states that it was approved by the Board on February 15, 2022.

Neither the recording of the February 15, 2022 meeting or the meeting minutes reflect that the Board discussed or voted on the Resolution in the public meeting as required by FOIA. Mr. Cavin discovered the Resolution after submitting a FOIA request seeking information regarding Dr. Thurman's compensation.

The FOIA permits--but does not require-- school boards to enter executive session to discuss personnel matters. However, boards are then required to reconvene in public to formally vote on the matter. Any resolution considered or arrived at in executive session is not legal unless the governing body formally votes on the resolution in public.

The Resolution provides that Dr. Thuman's contract would run through June 30, 2025; gives a monthly vehicle allowance of $1,000; provides reimbursements for basic vehicle expenses up to $6,000 annually; provides 20 days of vacation per year; and increases his salary to a whopping $251,327.

McCutchen stated, "The law is crystal clear. Executive sessions shall not be called for the purpose of defeating the spirit of FOIA. The public deserves complete transparency especially when they're paying a superintendent over $250,000 and providing perks that a Fortune 500 CEO would be proud of."

McCutchen added, "This practice of not voting in public regarding the superintendent's contract has been going on for years in contravention of the law."

Jimmie Cavin added, "Elected school board members take an oath and it isn't to circumvent the law."

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