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Lawsuit filed against school board over McKinney closure, other actions

STANFORD — A lawsuit filed in the Franklin County Circuit Court seeks, among other things, to issue a temporary injunction preventing the sale or transfer of McKinney Elementary and to declare the vote by the Lincoln County School Board to close McKinney void.

The lawsuit was filed by Ricky King, Jennifer Broadbent and McKinney School Recovery Incorporated. King and Broadbent have both been advocates for McKinney, which was closed at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

King filed as a resident and taxpayer living in LIncoln County who has an interest in the “proper management and control of schools within Lincoln County.” McKinney Elementary is where his grandchildren would have attended school. Broadbent also filed due to her interest in the proper management and control of schools. She also filed as the mother of two minor children who are “impacted by the Lincoln County School Board’s decision to close, reclassify and surplus McKinney.” One of her children would be attending the school if it had remained open and the other would have eventually attended McKinney.

King and Broadbent are both listed as directors of the McKinney School Recovery Incorporated board. The third director listed on the Articles of Incorporation (non-profit) filed in the office of Alison Lundergan Grimes, Secretary of State, on July 12, 2019, is Bruce Smith, who now holds a seat on the Lincoln County School Board, one of the defendants in the lawsuit. He won the District 3 seat in the November election.

There are four defendants named in the lawsuit. Named along with the Lincoln County School Board were Kevin Brown, the interim Kentucky Commissioner of Education, the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Board of Education.

The Lincoln County School Board voted 3-1 on May 9, 2019, to close McKinney Elementary, with Alan Hubble being the lone vote against. The votes for closure were from Tom Blankenship, Ricky Lane and Win Smith. The Kentucky Department of Education approved the closure. Then, on Dec. 12, the board voted 3-2 to change McKinney from a permanent to a transition center based upon the opinion of the Lincoln County Schools (LCS) Local Planning Committee. By the same 3-2 vote in the same meeting, the board declared the facility surplus property, making it available for sale or transfer..

The vote in both the reclassification of McKinney and making it surplus property was Blankenship, Lane and Win Smith all voting to approve both and Hubble and Bruce Smith voting against both issues.

The lawsuit shows eight causes of action. The phrase “arbitrary and capricious” is used repeatedly throughout the counts. It means doing something according to one’s will or caprice and therefore conveying a notion of a tendency to abuse the possession of power.

The eight causes are:

Count 1 – The Lincoln County Board vote to close McKinney Elementary was arbitrary and capricious in violation of Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution. The lawsuit states “the Board failed to act in good faith, upon a sound, just and reasonable basis, with due regard for the public interest, with due regard for the children affected.”

Count 2 – The evidentiary basis for the Lincoln County Board’s action was arbitrarily and unreasonably insufficient to support the vote to close McKinney Elementary. The lawsuit states the board “failed to adequately study the conditions of all grade schools potentially impacted by the closure of McKinney Elementary, and the costs of keeping McKinney Elementary open as compared to the cost of closing McKinney Elementary.”

Count 3 – The Lincoln County Board vote to request a “minor” change regarding McKinney Elementary in the District Facilities Plan and vote to approve the requested finding was arbitrary and capricious in violation of Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution. The lawsuit states that Section 503.2 of the Kentucky School Facilities Plan Manual “limits the ability of a local board of education to request a finding for adjusting its district facilities plan to a change that will not substantially affect the district’s needs assessment and a change that affects only one facility.”

Count 4 – The evidentiary basis for the request for a “minor” change and the approval of the requested finding was arbitrary and unreasonably insufficient to support the votes. The lawsuit states the board “knew, or should have known, at the time of the vote that the change substantially affected the District’s need assessment and that the change affected more than one facility.”

County 5 – The Kentucky Department of Education’s instruction for Lincoln County Schools to modify the district facilities plan to facilitate a disposal of McKinney Elementary was arbitrary and capricious in violation of Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution. The lawsuit states “the Kentucky Department of Education knew, or should have known, that the closure of McKinney Elementary substantially affected the District’s needs assessment and that closure affected more than one facility.”

Count 6 – The Lincoln County Board vote to surplus McKinney Elementary was arbitrary and capricious in violation of Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution. The vote to surplus McKinney prepared the property for sale or transfer which the lawsuit states was an act in “furtherance of the previously described arbitrary, unreasonable and capricious conduct, in Counts 1 through 5.” The lawsuit states “a sale or transfer of McKinney Elementary to a third party would result in immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage to plaintiffs” – King, Broadbent and McKinney School Recovery Incorporated.

Count 7 – The Kentucky Department of Education may not approve an amendment or revision of the LCS District Facilities Plan in the absence of circumstances required by 702 KAR 4:180 as contained in the Kentucky School Facilities Planning Manual. The lawsuit states “The plan to close, reclassify and surplus McKinney Elementary clearly did not meet the requirement of the Section 502 amendment process.

Count 8 – The Kentucky Department of Education’s implementation of Section 503 of the Kentucky School Facilities Planning manual is arbitrary and capricious in violation of Section 2 of the Kentucky Constitution.The lawsuit states the KDE’s implementation of 702 KAR 4:180 and Section 503, “as manifest through its instructions to Lincoln County Schools, is contrary to the plain language of the administrative regulation and planning manual” and is a way to avoid the requirements of the administrative regulation and planning manual.

In the lawsuit’s “Prayer for Relief” section, the plaintiffs ask for the right of judicial review as a “safeguard to preclude arbitrary school closings under Coppage.” The lawsuit further states that there was “no rational basis or legal basis to modify the 2017 LCS District Facilities Plan. LCB did not act in good faith, upon a sound reason.”