An agreement that remained secret for more than two years and sent tens of thousands of dollars to an ex-superintendent was unsealed and read aloud last week in Huron. The taxpaying public finally found out the truth.
In 2011, a Huron resident read in the paper that the school district was paying both its current superintendent and its previous one, Ross Opsal, who had left less than a year after he signed a three-year contract. Opsal cited "personal health issues" in a public letter released by the school district.
The school board refused to disclose why it was paying both people, and referred to a sealed agreement with Opsal that was not available to the public.
After the Daily Republic newspaper of Mitchell pursued opening that agreement, the matter went to court. Third Circuit Judge Jon Erickson ruled Aug. 28 that the secret agreement must be provided, affirming an earlier decision issued in March by the state Office of Hearing Examiners.
The agreement revealed that the board and Opsal agreed in March 2011 to part ways before the expiration of his contract. The board agreed to pay Opsal his base salary plus extra amounts for retirement and health care each month for a period extending up to June 2012.
According to the terms of the agreement, the total amount of payments to Opsal could have been nearly $175,000, and independent calculations indicate the total was approximately that amount.
The reason for the school district paying Opsal's salary for more than a year still isn't clear and may never be. But the taxpayers finally know about the secret agreement and the payments. The court ruling is a win for the citizens in the Huron school district.