Walker fights Ritz lawsuit against state school board

2013-10-23T21:19:00Z 2013-12-28T18:51:30Z Walker fights Ritz lawsuit against state school boardDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
October 23, 2013 9:19 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | A Merrillville attorney has asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit filed Tuesday by State Superintendent Glenda Ritz against Tony Walker, of Gary, a member of the State Board of Education.

Trent McCain filed paperwork in Marion County on Wednesday indicating he will represent Walker in court. It appears Walker, an attorney himself, is the first member of the state education board to hire a lawyer.

McCain provided The Times a copy of his motion to dismiss Ritz's complaint because it fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted under the Indiana Open Door Law.

Ritz individually sued the 10 members of the board she chairs claiming they held an illegal meeting, without her knowledge, by drafting and submitting a letter requesting a legislative agency calculate 2011-12 school grades instead of her Department of Education.

She asks that a judge rule the board's decision to make a request to the Legislature is "official action," which requires public notice of deliberations, and to bar the Legislative Services Agency from compiling school grades unless the board follows proper procedures in a subsequent request.

Walker rejects Ritz's notion that circulating an e-mail message among board members constitutes a meeting. He also believes the board's request for help from the Legislature is not official action by the board, just a request.

"There's no violation here," Walker said. "It's a political ploy."

Ritz, an elected Democrat, and the Republican-appointed board have clashed repeated since she took office in January. However, a lawsuit by a state board chairwoman against the members of her board is believed to be unprecedented.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller, a Republican, is reportedly working behind-the-scenes to defuse the situation. Typically, when a state entity sues or is sued he is the state's attorney. It's not clear who his "client" would be in this case.

Zoeller spokesman Bryan Corbin said the attorney general "is reserving comment until he has an opportunity to speak with all of the clients regarding this matter, and he hopes his office can serve some useful role in resolving this conflict outside of court."

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