FROM STAFF REPORTS

A judge has dismissed six Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education members from a lawsuit filed by Iredell Free News that seeks to prevent the board from meeting secretly via text message.

Ashley Leonard, an Asheville attorney representing the I-SS Board, argued successfully on Monday in Iredell County Superior Court that the lawsuit filed by Iredell Free News had named board members Bill Howell, Doug Knight, Mike Kubiniec, Anita Kurn, Brian Sloan and Abby Trent only in their official capacity as board members and not personally. (Board member Charles Kelly was not named in the lawsuit because he did not participate in the text messages.)

Judge Matthew Houston, in his decision, ruled that Iredell Free News can file an amended lawsuit which names the board members personally and in their official capacity. Statesville attorneys Ken Darty and Carey Parker said after the hearing that they intended to do so.

The next hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for July 15.

Iredell Free News filed the lawsuit on October 25, 2023, asking the court to order the I-SS Board members to stop meeting secretly via text message and comply with North Carolina’s open meetings laws.

The I-SS Board members began regularly discussing school business via text message in mid-December of 2022, shortly after Kurn, Kubliniec, Sloan and Trent were sworn into office. As part of the lawsuit, Iredell Free News included more than 300 pages of text messages, which run through December of 2023, as evidence of the open meetings violations.

The I-SS Board came under fire after Iredell Free News published excerpts of the text messages, some of which targeted Statesville High School students and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The board members were also critical of Iredell County commissioners handling’ of funding for the new Weathers Creek High School and Rep. Jeff McNeely over his support of the state’s school vouchers program.

More than 650 individuals have signed a petition calling for the board members to resign.


 

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