LA MARQUE — On April 11, the La Marque school district executed a legally binding agreement for the resignation of its superintendent.
The following day, The Daily News filed a records request for all correspondence related to the resignation of then Superintendent Ecomet Burley, but that request was ignored by the school district. On several occasions in the weeks that followed, school district officials said both over the telephone and in emails that correspondence approved by trustees in March did not exist. The district did not provide other documents related to the resignation until late May.
On March 27, the La Marque school district trustees authorized “the district’s attorney to issue correspondence as discussed in executive session.” Less than a month later, Burley resigned.
On March 28, The Daily News requested the letter approved by the trustees. That same day Burley emailed The Daily News and said “the letter you seek has not been drafted and will be considered privileged and confidential information since it will be drafted by the board’s attorney to me.”
On April 12, The Daily News again requested a copy of the letter along with any other correspondence related to Burley’s resignation.
“Our previous request for this item was denied because the document did not exist according to the LMISD response,” The Daily News wrote in its request. “It is our understanding the letter now exists and is subject to immediate release. This request seeks a copy of the letter and any response that may have been made to the letter and received by LMISD.”
But no documents were turned over by the school district. The district never sought an opinion from the state attorney general. Under the state’s Public Information Act, a government body has 10 days to seek an opinion from the attorney general if it seeks to withhold a document.
In follow-up conversations, school district officials claimed that no letter existed and never provided any other correspondence or documents related to Burley’s resignation.
In a separate request May 7, The Daily News requested the terms of Burley’s resignation.
It would take 21 days for the district to provide Burley’s resignation agreement as well as Burley’s letter of resignation and a letter of recommendation written by Annie Burton, then president of the school board, for Burley.
But while school district officials did not provide the documents until May 28, the documents could have been available as early as mid-April.
According to a date across the top of the documents released by the school district, the resignation agreement was sent on April 11 — a day before The Daily News sent its second request for records pertaining to Burley’s resignation.
The agreement was executed on April 11 and Burley’s letter of resignation is also dated April 11.
School district officials did not return phone calls and emails from The Daily News seeking answers to why the documents were not turned over in April.
And while the school district did provide the separation agreement, it has not responded to several other requests made by The Daily News.
A request, made last year, for travel records for all school board members as well as top administrators has not been answered, and the school district has not requested an opinion from the attorney general. Requests for copies of trustee-approved evaluations of Burley have also been ignored, as was a request for a copy of Burley’s offer of a separation agreement that trustees voted down in February of 2012, among others.
The school district has also claimed in the past that records did not exist only to have the newspaper obtain them later.
In November, the La Marque school district prepared a document that outlined several plans to deal with the district’s budget shortfall that was given to trustees at a Nov. 8 budget workshop. The Daily News requested the document Nov. 15, but the school district did not provide it. Instead, 10 days after the request, the La Marque school district faxed The Daily News a single sheet of paper that simply had a budget summary.
Burley said in an email that The Daily News’ request had been met by the budget summary, and that plans, which outlined cuts and school closures, did not exist. But in December, The Daily News was able to obtain a copy of those plans.