Settlements should be public

The South Carolina Island Packet editorialized this morning about a lawsuit settlement whose terms are being withheld from the public.

In the case at hand, the Beaufort County School district did not renew the contract of principal LaVerne Davis. Davis sued the school district for breach of contract. The school district said the lawsuit was without merit but then went ahead and settled it.

The school district cites, as a reason for its refusal to make the settlement public, that it was a private entity that paid the settlement–namely, the school district’s private insurance carrier. The school district maintains that since the settlement was paid by a private corporation, no taxpayer dollars were used.

How very lame.

As the editorial says:

Acts by public officials are costing us money — whether it’s in the form of a direct payment or through an insurance company paid to provide coverage. We should know how much and why. We can’t know that unless we know the terms of a settlement.

The position taken here by the school district gives credence to the belief by people who pay attention to open records that government agencies increasingly feel entitled to make up extremely weak reasons for their refusal to conduct the public’s business in public.

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