MO AG Schmitt sues nonprofit Missouri School Boards Association
Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued the Missouri School Boards Association on Tuesday, accusing the organization of covering up records relating to its federal parent organization, its advice to the district on mask mandates and consultant contracts.
Schmitt, who has sued individual school districts on similar terms, argues the association violated Missouri Sunshine Law by failing to respond to two requests and saying there were no relevant records in response to a request. third.
“At every turn we were blocked,” Schmitt said in a statement. “On behalf of parents across the state, I am filing this lawsuit seeking public records of important issues affecting their children and children in Missouri schools across the state.”
Melissa Randol, the association’s executive director, called the lawsuit “frivolous” in a statement, saying Schmitt was using it to bolster his bid for the U.S. Senate.
“The MSBA is a not-for-profit organization that supports school boards in their efforts to ensure student success and, in doing so, uphold the law,” Randol said.
“This lawsuit is a political stunt by Candidate Schmitt, and as citizens of Missouri it is disheartening to see his state office turn into an extension of his campaign.”
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The AG argues that the organization is subject to the Sunshine Act, which is used to request public records, documents and communications, because it “operates almost entirely with taxpayers’ money and performs a public function.” The lawsuit cites a 1988 attorney general’s opinion on the organization as justification.
Attorney Chuck Hatfield, representing the School Boards Association, said “no attorney general has ever prosecuted a nonprofit entity for violating the Sunshine Act” and that “nonprofit entities in the the whole world should be terrified”.
An October request from Schmitt’s office was for documents related to the Missouri chapter’s role in its parent organization’s memo calling on the federal government to investigate parents who made threats against board members. schools across the country, calling them acts of “domestic terrorism”.
The Missouri chapter withdrew from the national organization shortly after the memo was released, saying it was “antithetical to our long tradition of local control.”
Other requests made by Schmitt’s office related to the organization’s advice on mask mandates, as well as its relationship with a consulting group that provides “anti-racism” resources to schools.
This week’s trial is not Schmitt’s first on the issue; Last year, he sued Springfield Public Schools, alleging the state’s largest public district violated the Sunshine Law in the way it responded to requests for training materials and curricula about race and fairness. The district called the lawsuit an “attempt to intimidate the SPS” that “will not prevail.”
On Tuesday, Schmitt sued the Rockwood School District in St. Louis County on similar grounds.
Schmitt, who has made lawsuits against school districts, local courts and the federal government a key aspect of his time in office, is running in a crowded Republican field to succeed U.S. Senator Roy Blunt. His opponents include former Governor Eric Greitens, U.S. Representatives Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long, Mark McCloskey and Senate Pro Tem Chairman Dave Schatz.