Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Burlington School District v. Provost

Supreme Court of Vermont

December 6, 2019

Burlington School District
Adam Provost and Seven Days

          On Appeal from Superior Court, Chittenden Unit, Civil Division, Helen M. Toor, J.

          Joseph A. Farnham and Kevin J. Coyle of McNeil, Leddy & Sheahan, P.C., Burlington, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Craig Weatherly, Burlington, for Defendant-Appellant Provost.

          Thomas A. Little of Little & Cicchetti, PC, Burlington, for Defendant-Appellee Da Capo Publishing, Inc. d/b/a Seven Days.

          PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Robinson, Eaton and Carroll, JJ., and Dooley, J. (Ret.), Specially Assigned.

          REIBER, C.J.

         ¶ 1. In this declaratory judgment action, defendant Adam Provost appeals the civil division's determination that plaintiff Burlington School District could disclose, in response to a newspaper's public records request, an unredacted copy of a Resignation Agreement reached by the District and Provost concerning his employment with the District. Provost argues that the civil division: (1) lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the District's request for declaratory relief regarding a matter within the exclusive purview of the Public Records Act (PRA); and (2) erred by granting the District's request for declaratory relief based on its conclusion that Provost had waived any objection to release of the agreement, even assuming it had jurisdiction to consider the request. We affirm.

         ¶ 2. By terms of a written agreement, Provost resigned from his employment at the Burlington School District, effective January 2, 2018. In relevant part, the agreement provided that "any action taken by the District to comply with its legal obligations shall not be a violation of this Resignation Agreement," and that if the District believed it was required to release the agreement to the public, the District would notify Provost's attorney. The agreement further stated that the District is a public entity subject to the PRA and that, upon request for the Resignation Agreement, "the District will determine whether it must release the requested document[] under the provisions of applicable law."

         ¶ 3. On June 18, 2018, a reporter from defendant Seven Days made a PRA request for, among other documents, a copy of any separation agreement between Provost and the District that existed. Within days, the District's attorney informed Provost's attorney of its intent to release the agreement to Seven Days. The two attorneys exchanged emails[1] concerning the Seven Days records request, but ultimately the District disagreed with Provost's position that disclosure of an unredacted copy of the agreement would violate both the terms of the agreement and the PRA.

         ¶ 4. On June 25, 2018, the District commenced the instant declaratory judgment action, naming both Provost and Seven Days as defendants. The complaint, which was submitted under seal along with both unredacted and redacted versions of the Resignation Agreement, summarized the email exchange between the parties' counsel. The complaint set forth the District's position that Provost's proposed redactions were unwarranted under Vermont law and recounted Provost's threat of litigation against the District. The District asked the court to review in camera the unredacted and redacted versions of the agreement and to declare that the agreement should be provided to Seven Days. The District also requested a speedy hearing in furtherance of obtaining a declaratory judgment. See V.R.C.P. 57 ("The court may order a speedy hearing of an action for a declaratory judgment and may advance it on the calendar.").

         ¶ 5. In his answer, under the heading "affirmative defenses," Provost argued that: (1) the District failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because it did not "plead sufficiently the existence of a justiciable controversy" establishing subject matter jurisdiction under the Declaratory Judgment Act (DJA); (2) the District should be denied its requested relief because its conduct towards, and response to, Seven Days constituted a breach of its contractual obligations to Provost and demonstrated its unclean hands; and (3) the District disregarded its obligations under the PRA to protect Provost's personal documents from disclosure, thereby injuring him. Provost also objected to the District's request for in camera review, contending that the request was premature until the court determined that there was a justiciable controversy, that the PRA did not protect the agreement from disclosure in its entirety, and that in camera review was necessary to determine the scope of any declaratory relief available to the District.

         ¶ 6. Following a July 31, 2018 status conference with the parties' attorneys, the civil division issued the following order:

Seven Days has until 8/10/18 to file an answer/counterclaim. Adam Provost has until 9/15 to complete discovery, and until 9/28 to file his opposition to disclosure of his "Resignation Agreement" with [the District]. [The District] and Seven Days have until 10/18 to reply to Provost's opposition. The matter will then be under advisement.

         On August 9, in compliance with the court's scheduling order, Seven Days filed an amended answer and asserted a counterclaim against the District seeking production of an unredacted copy of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.