Trustees Sued Over Knight Dismissal

Tuesday, October 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — A lawsuit seeks to overturn the firing of coach Bob Knight, contending Indiana University violated the state's open meeting law.

The complaint was filed Monday by lawyers Roy Graham and Gojko Kasich on behalf of 46 plaintiffs from Indiana and other states.

``The issue is fairness,'' Graham said. ``The issue is not what Bobby Knight did or didn't do.''

The lawsuit stems from Sept. 9 meetings between university president Myles Brand and members of the board of trustees in which the basketball coach's job was discussed.

Brand fired Knight on Sept. 10, saying he violated a ``zero-tolerance'' behavior policy that had been in place since May.

The lawsuit asks Judge Elizabeth Mann to declare the Sept. 9 meetings in violation of Indiana's Open Door Law. It further asks that Mann order the university to not commit similar violations and to declare Knight's firing void.

Graham and Kasich contend the meetings between Brand and groups of four trustees were public meetings as defined by state law. As such, the university should have made public notice of the meeting, the complaint says.

Even a closed door executive session to discuss personnel matters must be announced by public notice 48 hours in advance. The university has said the meetings did not trigger the open meetings law because fewer than half the board of trustees attended any one meeting with Brand.

``We did what we did,'' university counsel Dorothy Frapwell said. ``People were in town and Myles was sharing information. We did not want a quorum there. That is true.''

Frapwell also said a 1987 act by the board of trustees gives the university president sole authority to fire Knight. Knight's attorney, Russell Yates, said in September that Brand's firing of Knight was in accord with the rules established in the coach's contract.

Hoosier State Press Association attorney Steve Key said Monday the university violated the spirit of the law. He said holding back-to-back meetings with small groups of public officials to avoid the open meetings law is a common problem in Indiana.

``It's one of the more heavily used loopholes and it's particularly irritating because those who use the loophole will stand before the public with a straight face and say they didn't violate the letter of the law,'' Key said.