Amended lawsuit seeks to overturn Vandeven’s firing
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Citing new testimony from a state school board member, a Springfield teacher is asking a judge to overturn the Missouri Board of Education’s controversial removal of former Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven.
Teacher Laurie Sullivan filed a lawsuit in November accusing the board of violating the state’s open meetings law before firing Vandeven late last year at the urging of Gov. Eric Greitens. In filings presented to a Cole County judge Tuesday, Sullivan’s attorney, Duane Martin, argued that a deposition from board member Eddy Justice indicates the board discussed issues in two closed meeting late last year that should have been discussed in public.
Martin argues the Sunshine Law violation makes all actions taken by the board during meetings Nov. 21 and Dec. 1 invalid.
“We’re asking a judge to void all actions in (those meetings), which would include the firing of Dr. Vandeven,” Martin said.
Justice said in his deposition that the board used the closed meetings to talk about education issues, such as student test scores and fourth-grade reading proficiency, which Martin argues should have been discussed in the open.
Justice also said he met with three members of Gov. Eric Greitens’ staff and Jennifer Edwards in Jefferson City the night before the Nov. 21 meeting, to discuss the upcoming meeting, which was called specifically to fire Vandeven. Edwards wasn’t sworn into the board until the Nov. 21 meeting.
During that meeting, the board fell one vote short of firing Vandeven, but Greitens’ appointees had enough votes to oust her at the Dec. 1 meeting.
Sarah Potter, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Wednesday that the department was reviewing the amended lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation.
Greitens withdrew all five of his appointees shortly before the legislative session began this month, then immediately re-appointed them to give the Senate more time to consider their appointments. Several Republican senators have vowed to block all five appointments over the vote to fire Vandeven. The board currently does not have enough members to conduct business.