Nancy Sebring, who resigned the superintendent posts in Des Moines and Omaha over sexually explicit emails she sent, has filed a lawsuit in Des Moines to block the additional release of emails she considers “purely personal.”
Sebring filed a lawsuit against the Des Moines Public Schools in Polk County, Iowa, District Court. She filed the request for an injunction Monday, after The World-Herald and Des Moines Register published selected emails over the weekend. Sebring resigned Saturday from the Omaha superintendent position.
The Des Moines district, responding to public records requests from the newspapers, provided the emails last week with some information redacted, including the identity and email address of Sebring's lover. Both newspapers removed certain sexually-explicit content from the emails before publishing them.
Des Moines officials acknowledged last week that the district's discovery of those emails was the reason Sebring resigned abruptly May 10, despite being under contract through June 30. At the time, Sebring said she needed more time to make the transition to the Omaha job and to help prepare for her daughter's wedding.
Also Wednesday, Sebring and her husband issued statements about their marriage, according to the Des Moines Register.
“Nancy and I have lived separate and independent lives for the past seven years. Our careers have led us in different directions both geographically and personally. We remain friends and enjoy spending time with our children and grandchildren,” Randy Sebring said in a statement on the Register's web site.
According to the Register, Nancy Sebring apologized to faculty, students and parents for “my lapse in judgment over the past several weeks” and said that she “betrayed your trust and undermined your confidence.”
Sebring has not returned repeated calls from The World-Herald.
Questions about Sebring's marriage came up in the vetting process when she was a candidate for the Omaha job, said Marvin Edwards, senior associate with Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the firm that managed the OPS search.
The firm was aware she was living apart from her husband but also recognized that sometimes happens when two working professionals are married, Edwards said.
Sebring mentioned going to visit her husband on some weekends, Edwards said. Last year, she was a finalist for a superintendent job in Boulder, Colo., about 30 miles north of Denver, where her husband is a veterinarian.
In her lawsuit, Sebring claims that other individuals have requested or will ask for full, unredacted copies of her Des Moines emails.
The Des Moines district is no longer informing her about new records requests, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit acknowledges that free and open examination of public records is generally in the public interest.
But the suit argues that a small number of the emails were purely personal and their content is of no public interest.
The lawsuit says some of the emails were sent by a private individual who would not have sent those emails “had they known the information would be available for general public examination.”
In the lawsuit, Sebring also alleges that the Des Moines district has refused her repeated requests to delete her emails, which she contends is the district's practice for former employees.
Sebring is asking a judge to find that free and open examination of the emails is not in the public interest because “it would cause substantial and irreparable injury to the persons involved.”
Sebring wants the judge to block the release of personal emails until a judge can rule on her request. She also wants to be notified of any public records requests made to the Des Moines district involving her.
In a statement, the Des Moines district said it will continue to comply with records requests according to Iowa law “until a court directs us to do otherwise.”
The district said it is reviewing records requested since last weekend and “are not able to discuss the content of them at this time.”
Des Moines also denied that its practice is to delete the emails of former employees, saying emails are maintained for at least 90 days and sometimes longer for a top administrator.
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