Clay County teachers to get hearing on lawsuit

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - An appeals court Friday ordered a lower-court judge to hold an "immediate" hearing in a public-records lawsuit filed by a teachers union against the Clay County School Board.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned a decision by Clay County Circuit Judge Don H. Lester that dismissed a complaint filed by the Clay County Education Association against the school board. Friday's ruling said the union sought records dealing with the school board's operation, control and supervision of public schools.

Some information was provided, but the union alleged in the lawsuit that the school board failed to produce other materials that were public records. The school board argued that "it either had already provided the documents, did not have the information in the format requested, or could not produce the documents because they did not exist,'' according to Friday's ruling.

The circuit judge dismissed the complaint, but the appeals court, in an opinion written by Judge Stephanie Ray and joined by judges James Wolf and Philip Padovano, said the lower-court judge erred in failing to hold an evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed issues in the case. Pointing to part of the state's public-records law, the appeals court also sent the case back with an order to hold an immediate hearing.

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