The death of Bobby Knight has prompted extensive reporting on his career and legacy. But a little known incident in Knight's career touched on Indiana's open meetings law. Indiana University's firing of Knight resulted in an open meetings lawsuit.
In 2000 an Indiana attorney, Gojko Kasich, sued Indiana University for violation of the state’s open meeting laws based on secret meetings of less than a quorum of the members of the university’s board of trustees with the university’s president to discuss Knight’s termination. Kasich alleged that the trustees met with the president in two groups of four to avoid having a quorum of the nine member board present at a single meeting.
Their alleged goal? To circumvent the Indiana open meetings law requiring that meetings of a quorum of the board be conducted openly and in a public forum.
A similar allegation was leveled against University of Louisville Board of Trustees Chairman David Grissom in 2017. Grissom publicly acknowledged a series of telephone calls he made to each of the board’s members to discuss beleaguered basketball Coach Rick Pitino’s suspension. At a press conference, Grissom “told reporters that he called every trustee to get their take on how best to respond to the recruiting scandal. ” Every trustee, he reported, expressed support for the decision to suspend the coach.
The Indiana lawsuit was decided in favor of the university based on the courts’ interpretation of Indiana law -- which does not prohibit less than quorum meetings -- and its determination that there was no secret meeting of a quorum of the members of the IU Board of Trustees.
In a 2017 open meetings decision, the Kentucky Attorney General rejected an open meetings appeal based on Grissom's public admission. UofL defended the serial telephonic meetings between the chairman and the the board members as "informational" and "advisory."
The Attorney General found no violation based on the legally recognized exceptions (defenses) to illegal less than quorum meetings that effectively swallow the statutory prohibition.
Both coaches went on to greater or lesser things, but these little known incidents unite them in open government lore.