MANATEE -- School board members Julie Aranibar and Karen Carpenter are asking their fellow school board members to reimburse them for more than $20,000 in legal fees they incurred during an investigation into whether they violated public records policy.
Aranibar is asking for $20,000 to be reimbursed and Carpenter is asking for $700.
Carpenter said that she was not dragged into the investigation until the end of November, so her legal fees are less than Aranibar's.
Aranibar says that it is a policy of the department to reimburse such fees.
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"It is under the state statutes of Florida that, as school board officials, the legal fees are paid for," Aranibar said.
At the Sept. 10 board meeting, Aranibar and Carpenter did not produce text messages they received from school board candidate Robert Moates, who lost to Dave "Watchdog" Miner.
Carpenter said that the rule is that any text messages received during a school board meeting must be disclosed. Carpenter maintains she did not see that she received the text in question and never responded to it. Aranibar said that she could not produce the text because of a virus on her phone.
The text was a request to make a comment on an agenda item at that board meeting.
A civil complaint was filed when they did not disclose the texts.
"This didn't deserve the level of attention that it got," Carpenter said.
Carpenter said that she does not know where the district will get the money to reimburse these fees, and that it will be up to new superintendent Rick Mills to figure that out.
The item has not yet been included on a future school board agenda.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.