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Trustees sued over Knight's dismissal
INDIANAPOLIS -- A lawsuit contends Indiana University violated state law last month when trustees discussed the firing of basketball coach Bob Knight without advance public notice. The suit was filed in Bloomington on Monday by lawyers Roy Graham and Gojko Kasich on behalf of 46 plaintiffs, most of them Indiana alumni or basketball fans. "It's a whole range of people who are pretty perturbed with the way these things went down," Kasich said from his office in Hebron, Ind. Kasich said he has never had any contact with Knight. He added that the intent of the suit is not necessarily to overturn the firing. "We realistically don't expect coach Knight to be sitting on the IU bench," he said. The lawsuit contends the meetings between university president Myles Brand and separate groups of four trustees were public meetings as defined by state law. As such, the university should have given 48 hours notice, the complaint says. Brand met with trustees Sept. 9 and announced the firing the next day, saying Knight violated a "zero-tolerance" behavior policy imposed in May. But the university has said the Sept. 9 meetings did not trigger the open meetings law because fewer than half the nine trustees attended any one meeting with Brand. "What we would hope is a court finds what was done was improper, that it violated the spirit of the open door law and consequently the open door law," Kasich said. "We would hope the court issues an injunction that IU nor any other university, really any other agency, can skirt the open door law by jumping through these hoops." The lawsuit asks Judge Elizabeth Mann to declare the Sept. 9 meetings in violation of Indiana's open door law. "We would anticipate they would call a public meeting for the purpose of terminating coach Knight, and that's their prerogative. But at least do it in public. At least have enough guts to stand up," Kasich said. Graham called it an issue of fairness. "The issue is not what Bobby Knight did or didn't do," he said. University counsel Dorothy Frapwell told The Bloomington Herald-Times, "We did what we did. ... 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.
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