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District told to share contract details

The Minnesota Department of Administration has told the Farmington School District to open up when it comes to information about superintendent Brad Meeks' contract.

The decision, released last week, appears to settle a long-running dispute between the district and resident Tim Burke. Burke, a vocal critic of the district and a candidate for school board this year, has made several requests for a complete copy of Meeks' contract. The district had refused, claiming state statute allows districts to make public only information such as salary, contract fees, benefits, job title and job description.

In a statement released last week the district said its lawyers had advised it not to release any more information than was specifically identified in state statutes.

"We were concerned that making more information public than specifically allowed by law would open the district to the possibility of a lawsuit from an employee," said Linda Goers, the district's human resources director. "This opinion makes it clear that the state department of administration feels all contract language should be public. We will operate under that opinion moving forward."

In a statement released Aug. 27 administration commissioner Dana Badgerow rejected the district's suggestion that some information on employee contracts could be withheld from the public.

"It is the Commissioner's opinion that the Legislature intended to make public all of the various types of compensation afforded to public employees and to make public the basis for that compensation," Badgerow wrote. "The District erred when it denied Mr. Burke access to the full contents of the contract; it should not have redacted any data."

The redacted contract the district originally released eliminated about half of the information in the document. Among the items left out was information about state statutes that apply to the contract, the duration of the contract, calculation of Meeks' daily salary, allowable outside activities; time allowed to pursue professional development and severance pay.

In July, Meeks volunteered to release a full copy of his contract. In a statement from the district he said he worried about opening the door for other employees' contracts to be made public.

"I didn't want to set a precedent for the district that might have exposed it to a potential lawsuit and I didn't want to set a precedent for other employees," Meeks said. "It didn't seem fair that I alone would decide this legal matter for all employees."