OREM — The former principal of Noah Webster Academy has sued the charter school's board of directors, alleging the board violated the state's Open and Public Meetings Act when members disciplined him in October and terminated him in December.

Kennan T. Beckstrand of Fruit Heights is seeking a reversal of the decision to terminate him, his Salt Lake attorney, Scott Crook, said.

He also seeks salary compensation and legal fees, according to documents filed March 6 in 4th District Court.

Contacted Monday by the Deseret Morning News, Sharon Moss, chairwoman of the school's board, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Moss referred questions to the board's attorney, Evan Schmutz, who said Monday he had not been served with court papers and could not comment.

Charter schools receive state and federal funding but are independent of local school districts. They often are founded and governed by parents.

The Noah Webster Academy, 205 E. 400 South, opened in the fall, and according to the lawsuit, Beckstrand lost his job after a Dec. 7 regularly scheduled school board meeting.

Board members closed the meeting to discuss the potential purchase of property, the suit states. Closing the meetings under such circumstances can be legal under the state's Open and Public Meetings Act.

But during the closed meeting, in addition to discussing a land purchase, board members voted to terminate Beckstrand and search for his replacement, the suit states.

The law requires that public-meeting agendas state all reasons for holding a closed meeting and the school board violated the act by not stating on the agenda that the board planned to discuss personnel matters, the suit states.

The school board did not keep minutes or record the closed meeting — a violation of the law because closed meetings must be recorded "except in limited circumstances not relevant here," the suit states.

The board did not vote to terminate Beckstrand in an open meeting, the suit states, which also is a violation of the law because public bodies must approve contracts and appointments in open meetings.

Prior to losing his job, Beckstrand was disciplined by the school board in October for insubordination, the suit states.

Beckstrand had taken to the school board complaints from faculty and staff about the behavior of Moss, who in addition to chairing the school's board, worked as an assistant principal.

(After the October board meeting, the Utah State Charter School Board told Moss she could not have both positions, the suit states, and she left the assistant principal position.)

Beckstrand's suit alleges portions of the October board meeting were also in violation of the law.

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The agenda did not state that the board was to discuss a personnel matter during the closed meeting, the suit states.

The board did not record or keep minutes of the closed meeting, the suit states.

And the board did not vote to discipline Beckstrand in an open meeting, the suit states.

Crook said he will soon file another complaint against the Noah Webster Academy board for making defamatory accusations against his client, but had to file this complaint first because of the statute of limitations requirement.

Beckstrand, he said, is looking for another job.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com