December 28, 2006
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon, the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) and several current and past members of the MOHELA board today reached a settlement over Nixon's allegations that the board violated the Missouri Sunshine Law in January of this year.
Under the assurance of voluntary compliance filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court today, MOHELA and the individual defendants agreed that they committed multiple violations of the Sunshine Law in the period between Jan. 20 and Jan. 31. These meetings dealt with MOHELA's response to Gov. Blunt's plan to sell MOHELA's assets.
"I believed that the MOHELA board had engaged in multiple violations of the Sunshine Law. Today, they agreed," Nixon said. "It's important to note that this settlement relates solely to violations of the Sunshine Law by MOHELA and its directors. It does not address either the policy issues surrounding the sell-off of MOHELA's assets - which the legislature must resolve - or the legal concerns which may be raised concerning such a sale."
The individual defendants in the lawsuit Nixon filed in February include Dr. Karen Luebbert, Marilyn Bush, John Greer, Dr. James Ricks, Dr. Gregory Fitch, Kathryn Swan and James Mauze. All of the defendants except Greer have since left the MOHELA board. As part of the agreement, the board members each will pay $1,000.
MOHELA also gave its assurance that it will comply with the Sunshine Law in the future, and that MOHELA will establish and maintain a written Sunshine Law policy and provide two, two-hour training session for the board and other MOHELA employees each year on the Sunshine Law. The Attorney General's Office has offered to provide that training free of charge; each year, Nixon's office provides such training to hundreds of public officials. MOHELA also will have an executive level compliance officer monitor MOHELA's compliance with the Sunshine Law and today's agreement.
For the next two years, MOHELA also will provide the Attorney General's Office with copies of all notices of its board meetings at the same time those notices are made available to board members, and with minutes of the board meetings as soon as those become available to the general public.