The Quad-City Times sought audio and minutes from closed meetings of the Davenport School Board related to the sale Lincoln School. The district denied the open records request, saying the information would not be released until after the sale closed.
The Quad-City Times sought an advisory opinion from the Iowa Public Information Board on the matter. On Thursday, the Board sided with the school district, saying records from closed sessions to discuss property may be kept private until “purchase funds have exchanged, the parties have signed and notarized a transfer deed and filed that deed with the county recorder.”
The school board voted 4-2-1 to sell the property for $30,000 to Together Making a Better Community, a non-profit closely affiliated with Third Missionary Baptist Church. Linda Hayes, the board’s vice president, is the church secretary, and was present for closed meeting discussions of the sale to her employer.
A leaked memo showed there have been 13 offers on the property since 2016, six for more than $700,000.
Most communications with the district have attributed the decision to Board President Ralph Johanson. He said in an interview Thursday he was trying to take the “appropriate and best course for the district” by keeping the audio from the public until the completion of the sale.
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While the district is within its rights to do so, they are under no legal obligation to wait.
“I’m not going to simply change my mind to not do something because of a legal loophole that would benefit somebody else,” he said Thursday. “I could go ahead and give that information, if I thought that was the best thing to do on behalf of the students and the district, but I don’t.”
Bettendorf Schools fulfilled a nearly identical open records request after the sales agreement was signed, rather than waiting for the sale to close.
While Davenport Schools previously estimated the closing would be at the end of October, Director of Operations Mike Maloney said Thursday no date has been set, and it was possible audio might not be made public until the middle of November, after Nov. 5 school board elections.
Due diligence ended Wednesday, but the sales agreement allows for an additional 30 days to close.
There are an unprecedented 14 candidates running for four seats. Hayes and Director Dan Gosa are the only incumbents in the race, and they both voted in favor of the controversial sale. Johanson and Beck also voted for the plan. Johanson isn’t running again, and Beck’s term isn’t up until 2021.
When asked if the audio would be available to the public before the election, Johanson responded: “I don’t understand the question -- the way that you’re linking it — the school board elections are the school board elections.”