Ritz "too busy" to talk about lawsuit

Glenda Ritz
Published: .
Updated: .

A day after she filed suit against her own board, Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, was still "unavailable for comment."

Ritz is suing the State Board of Education for violating the state's public meeting law.

In a statement Tuesday, Ritz accused the 10-member board of "meeting in secret" and sending a letter to legislative leaders asking for help in a quicker resolution of schools A-to-F grades for 2012-13.

That's work normally done by her Department of Education.

On Wednesday, Board of Education member Tony Walker filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which says the board violated the open door law.

While fellow board member Gordon Hendry wasn't aware of it until late Wednesday afternoon, Hendry said other board members were "extremely disappointed" by Ritz's action. Hendry said there was "no substance" to her claims and she had "no authority to file suit."

Hearing that Ritz was the keynote speaker at the Indiana Library Federation's annual conference, Eyewitness News went to the Indiana Convention Center hoping to talk to Ritz following her address.

A woman standing at one of the doors raised her hand and said, "There's no news media during the keynote. You walk in there and there's security behind the door and they will stop you then."

As we stood outside the ballroom, security made several passes before Ritz's spokesman, Daniel Altman arrived saying, "I imagine you want to talk about what happened yesterday."

We told him we did. We hoped to ask Ritz about the lawsuit and the ongoing tension between the Democratic superintendent and GOP-appointed board.

"What the suit alleges is that the State Board of Education took action outside of a meeting and did that in violation of Indiana's Open Door Law. The superintendent took an oath to uphold the laws of the state, so she felt this action had to be taken," he said.

Given the unusual nature of the suit and possible ramifications - an elected official taking a public action in suing her public board - we told Altman it was Ritz herself we wanted to hear from. Though we caught glimpses of her inside the ballroom, Altman said she had no time to talk. He said the keynote address was not part of her public schedule.

Asked if she had just five minutes or perhaps time later in the day, Altman said no. "As you can imagine she has a very busy schedule with A through F accountability and any number of other issues."

He added, "This wasn't on her public schedule. I came here because I wanted to cooperate and help you guys today."

Ritz left through a back door, hopped in a car and left before we could reach her.

Her communication director later called to say it wasn't Ritz's decision to deny access to the media. He said she would be available to talk about the lawsuit Thursday morning.