February 14, 2006
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon has directed that a lawsuit be filed today in St. Louis County Circuit Court against the directors of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MoHELA). The lawsuit will allege multiple violations of the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law over a period from Jan. 20 to Jan. 31 as the directors developed a proposal to sell a significant portion of MoHELA assets.
That proposal was developed, Nixon says, with no public meetings or public discussion and with no opportunity for citizens to learn about the transaction, much less voice their concerns. Everything that has come to light has confirmed that this was a violation of the Sunshine Law, Nixon says.
"The public was not given the opportunity to learn of MoHELA’s proposal until it was suddenly announced on Jan. 31," Nixon says. "Public business, particularly a matter of this magnitude, cannot be done in secret. MoHELA’s actions took place without the transparency that the Sunshine Law requires."
MoHELA was created by a 1981 act of the Missouri General Assembly to make post-secondary education more affordable for Missouri students. The law (Section 173.365, RSMo) specifically requires its meetings to be open to the public.
The lawsuit will ask the court to declare null and void any actions the board of directors took in violation of the Sunshine Law and assess penalties, if appropriate. Nixon also is asking that if the MoHELA board wants to proceed with a proposal concerning its assets, that the proposal come after a process that is open to the public, including meetings, hearings and discussion.