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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Hughes files civil suit for public records

Attorney Richard Groff of Dye, Deitrich, Prather, Petruff & St. Paul filed a civil suit against Island Middle School Inc. and IMS Director Kelly Parsons Jan. 8 in Manatee County Circuit Court on behalf of ousted Island Middle School Director Gary Hughes.

Groff is seeking action to compel IMS to provide public records requested Dec. 8, 2003 by Hughes from Parsons.

In a letter to Parsons, Hughes requested copies of the personnel files for all IMS teachers past and present, including himself and Parsons. He also requested copies of IMS board meeting minutes dating back to July 2003, including any notes taken by board members at the meetings.

Finally Hughes requested all written documentation of conversations between parents and board members, including dates, names of the parents and employees discussed.

According to court documents, Parsons verbally informed Hughes she would not provide all of the requested materials and would have to obtain some of it from the employee leasing company utilized by IMS.

On Jan. 5, Hughes received only the minutes to board meetings and was not given a reason - nor were any statutes or exemptions provided - for the omitted documents.

Count two of the suit requests that a judgment be made settling a dispute over each party's rights. The dispute questions whether Hughes has the right to be on school grounds for any lawful purpose.

According to Hughes' complaint, Parsons ordered him in December not to set foot on IMS property and that she would have him arrested if he trespassed there.

According to court documents, on Dec. 12 Parsons filed a petition for protection from Hughes for repeat violence against her, alleging Hughes had stalked her and harassed IMS students.

In her complaint Parsons states she has warned Hughes three times he is not to be on campus. She claims that on the morning of Dec. 12 Hughes stopped by the administrative office and Parsons asked her assistant to call 911, while she escorted Hughes to his car.

Parsons previously stated to The Islander, that she chose to call 911 to safeguard the school safety zone, which is defined by state statutes as being in, on or within 500 feet of any real property owned by or leased to any public or private school or school board.

According to the statute, any person who does not have legitimate business in the school safety zone or any other authorization, license or invitation to enter or remain in the school safety zone must leave if asked to do so by the principal or other designee.

The director can ask a person to leave the school zone if he or she believes the trespasser will commit a crime or is engaged in harassment or intimidation of students.

In her petition, Parsons claims Hughes has been on campus at least twice and has been seen talking to and upsetting students. She also alleged that Hughes has been seen staring at her in a threatening manner and overheard making threats against her at public events.

In her petition, Parsons requested Hughes be barred from the school and from the school's IMS Conch Fritter Band events. Her petition was dismissed without a hearing because it failed to establish that Parsons has been the victim of repeated violence.

Hughes alleges the statements made by Parsons in her petition are false. Hughes states he was on IMS property to make his public records request Dec. 8, and to pay for those copies Dec. 12.

Parsons has stated in the past that she believes it is not appropriate for an employee who has been terminated to come back on the property. "If they have legitimate business it can be done through the mail. It's not necessary to be on campus," she said.