School Board member wants transparency for grand jury requests

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By Heather Osbourne | 315-4440 | @heatheronwfdn | hosbourne@nwfdailynews.com

NICEVILLE — Okaloosa County School Board member Melissa Thrush requested transparency among her fellow members Monday if they make a request to the board attorney regarding the grand jury investigation.

Thrush — who referenced the grand jury assembled to hear what the State Attorney’s Office has discovered during several months of investigating the School District — asked attorney Jeff McInnis to notify the entire board of any requests before acting on behalf of a single board member.

“If that is not possible, the individual board member would need to use a personal attorney to make such a request,” Thrush said.

She also broadened her request to include not only the grand jury, but the State Attorney’s Office.

Thrush reminded the board and the public that the School Board members are legally bound not to discuss any information pertaining to the grand jury.

Thrush also said the board is obligated not to discuss or share with the public confidential personnel information and details about open and ongoing investigations.

“If one was to do so, it could potentially jeopardize the position of either party involved in those investigations,” Thrush said. “Sharing confidential personnel information and information pertaining to open or ongoing investigations is unethical and unlawful.”

She said later she was not referring to grand jury proceedings.

Eddie Perillo, the father of a 6-year-old non-verbal child with autism, was the first to appear before the grand jury Monday.

Perillo is just one of many people expected to testify during the next two weeks. His decision to take suspicions that his special-needs child was being abused by a school teacher to both law enforcement and the Northwest Florida Daily News helped launch numerous investigations into the actions and inaction of the district.

State Attorney Bill Eddins said grand jurors will hear much more than evidence of child abuse within the special education departments of two county schools and the district’s spotty record on disciplining employees.

“We are planning to present evidence of all aspects of the School District that have become public issues,” Eddins said Monday.

In addition to her grand jury request, Thrush also asked the board to review McInnis’ contract at a future School Board meeting.

“As we’ve previously stated, it has not been updated in over a decade,” Thrush said. “Just as we’ve stated with other policies and procedures, I feel it’s necessary for us to review that contract and wanted to give other board members time to review it and possibly bring it up at another board meeting for further discussion.”

Neither School Board members nor McInnis commented on Thrush’s requests.

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