COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Ethics Commission says a school board did not violate the state Open Meetings law when it held superintendent interviews behind closed doors, with 15 handpicked citizens allowed to attend but others from the public excluded.

The Commercial Dispatch filed a complaint against the Lowndes County School District Board of Trustees in November, days after the board held the interviews during executive session.

The Ethics Commission dismissed the newspaper's complaint Friday, the Commercial Dispatch reported.

The school board's attorney, Jeff Smith, described the executive session as a “limited public forum." Board members selected 15 people — three residents each from their respective elected districts — as a citizen panel to observe the interviews for a new superintendent and offer written feedback to the board.

Mississippi law allows executive sessions during public meetings for discussion of personnel matters. Public bodies may "invite specific individuals to attend an executive session, if the members feel that individual's presence is necessary," with all other members of the public excluded, according to the commission's order of dismissal.

Commercial Dispatch publisher Peter Imes said he does not plan to appeal the commission's decision.

"We were concerned the hand-picking of citizens to represent the concerns of the public in an otherwise closed executive session may have pushed the limits of Open Meetings laws," Imes said.

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