Monday, February 18, 2013

School Board Commissioners Gone Wild, Ignore Sunshine Laws

Shelby County School Board Chairman Billy Orgel is having trouble herding his cats, I mean, colleagues.  I've mentioned the poor behavior of some Commissioners directed to their peers, and we apparently will have no end to surprise resolutions and ethical questions.

A little over a week ago, on a Sunday afternoon, three School Board commissioners hosted a community forum at Houston High School to hear comments and concerns from parents and community members on the piecemeal budget information that was to be considered at last week's special call meeting.  Here's the write-up.  Former (old) Shelby County School Board Chair David Pickler, along with longtime colleague Commissioner Joe Clayton, and new colleague Mary Anne Gibson listened avidly to budget concerns and apparently some "outright hostility".  No harm, no foul, right?

I was interested to read about this forum because I had not heard about it.  I didn't see it on the School Board calendar, nobody mentioned it to me.  And we all know that if two or more public officials plan to be in the same room to discuss, well, anything, notice of the meeting must be published 48 hours ahead of time.

Guess I wasn't the only one with some questions.  Turns out that they didn't just not tell me, they didn't tell the rest of the School Board.  Commissioner Pickler justified the lack of public notice and notice to the Board by explaining that there was no official agenda, no official business conducted, and that the meeting had been officially announced on facebook and through word-of-mouth.  Some Commissioners are annoyed by the lack of invitation, some think it's fine and want their own separate meetings.

At the very least, we're seeing some very fundamental breakdowns in procedures and communication among Board members.  Commissioner Gibson might be able to credibly claim ignorance of state law - state law with which she is obligated to comply, and for which ignorance is no excuse.  But Commissioners Pickler and Clayton have been around for a long time.  They know better.

So what can we do?  Anybody want to file a lawsuit?

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