Late into Wednesday's Capital School Board meeting, board members got into a protracted and at times disharmonious discussion involving the transfer of a district administrator into a vacant position, a debate that resulted in one board member angrily leaving the meeting before adjournment.
Because personnel matters are discussed in closed executive session before the public meeting, the name or the qualifications of the individual under consideration could not be revealed during the debate.
The rules for executive sessions only permit board members to talk about personnel matters; approval or disapproval occurs in open session. The name of the individual still is withheld during the public meeting and only revealed after he or she is notified of the personnel action.
In this instance, saying the person's job title should include the word "interim" as a means of ensuring the job position would match the term of that individual's contract, board member Matthew Lindell made a motion to table a vote until the board's next meeting.
Fellow board member Brian Lewis agreed, arguing he did not think the board had had sufficient time to review the personnel move.
Because they only could talk in generalities, neither Lewis nor Lindell could clarify their objections. For the same reason, the three remaining board members could not state why they felt the personnel change should be approved as it stood.
With the situation apparently going nowhere after 15 to 20 minutes of discussion, Lindell withdrew his motion, and the board voted 3 to 2 in favor, with Lindell and Lewis opposing.
Clearly unhappy at this turn of events, Lewis packed up his materials and left the meeting, declaring, "It's disgraceful what my colleagues on the board have done to the public."
Afterward, board President Kay Dietz-Sass said she had told Lewis during the executive session that, if during the public session of the meeting he wanted more discussion on the personnel move, she would take the meeting back into closed-door, executive session.
Lewis, she said, had declined.
In a telephone conversation after the meeting, Lewis said he objected to the personnel move because he felt the individual in question did not have the credentials for the job. He would have preferred the district advertise the job and conduct interviews instead of filling it from within, he said.
"I told her basically what my position was earlier, and I told her that I can't stay," he said. "They wanted to go back into executive session. There was an issue a couple of months ago, if you recall, where a FOIA act was filed against the district because it wasn't announced that they were going to come back during this public session.
"I was concerned that may happen again," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Records of that event show the FOIA complaint was lodged because board members had gone into executive session without specifically stating they would return for a public vote.
In a January 2013 Dover Post story about the FOIA settlement with the state Department of Justice, both Dietz-Sass and District Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas said that incident had been unintentional.
Further, both school officials stated in the article they would consider the incident another lesson learned and applicable to future board votes.