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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Salary studies are public, judge says

Salary studies used by the Radnor school board when it granted raises for administrators are public records, a Delaware County Court judge has ruled.

The decision by Robert C. Wright is the latest round in a dispute that began last year when former Radnor school board member Judy Sherry asked for the data.

In a sharp rebuke to the board, which contended that the documents were not public records, Wright, in a June 30 decision, also ordered the board to pay $26,070 for Sherry's attorneys' fees and $2,901 in other costs.

The board must pay, the judge said, because in withholding one salary study that was clearly covered by Pennsylvania's Right to Know Act, it "willfully or with wanton disregard deprived [Sherry] of access to a public record" and "asserted exemptions, exclusions or defenses that were not based on a reasonable interpretation of the law."

The Radnor School District, which has spent $13,258 for its own attorney's fees and costs with more yet to come, has asked Wright to reconsider both his verdict and awarding of the fees, saying he made several factual and legal errors.

The documents' release is on hold until the judge decides. The district can appeal his ruling.

Sherry, who has clashed with the Radnor board on many issues and has long pushed for open records, said the decision will encourage the public to get involved in district affairs.

"We want to be able to hold people accountable" for their actions, she said.

In May 2007, Sherry asked the Radnor board for a Pennsylvania School Boards Association analysis of administrator salaries and an in-house document outlining compensation for administrators in neighboring school districts. She also asked the board for the cost to the district of an unrelated court filing.

The board had recently signed a contract with district administrators and had given four administrators additional salary increases. "I wanted to see exactly what facts they considered when they reached their decision," Sherry said.

More here.

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