Thursday, August 8, 2019

Quorums and Roll Calls

At the August 6, 2019 Special Called Board Meeting it was fortunate, in my opinion, that there were no votes on any items. Wait! There was a vote. And, had it been taken correctly, the meeting might never have gotten underway. [CORRECTION. (8/9/19) There was a vote on the Executive Session item "diploma petition". Mr. Manning's voice can be heard on the YouTube recording of the meeting, but I did not hear him in the meeting room - because the microphones do not amplify board members' voices in the room.]

The School Board has slots for seven members. According to Board Policy, a quorum is five.

In other words, if five board members don't show up, there is no official meeting.

At 5:30PM, when Board Chair Manning called the meeting to order, Trustee James Shadd was not in his chair.

Here's the problem.

Amelia McKie and Teresa Holmes are not fully-qualified, duly-seated members of the board. In other words, their presence doesn't count - legally.

They took the oath of office illegally on November 13, 2018, so that is like never taking it at all. After they filed their Statements of Economic Interest Reports on December 4,  2018 with the South Carolina Ethics Commission, each became eligible to take the oath of office and enter upon official responsibilities. McKie and Holmes have never taken the oath of office legally.

So McKie and Holmes are not legally on the Board.

The legally-seated board members who were present at 5:30PM were Manning, Caution-Parker, Elkins-Johnson and Agostini. Count - 1-2-3-4. One short of a quorum.

The next problem is that this Board never calls the roll. At the beginning of the (first) open session, whether a Regular or Special Called Meeting, the Secretary should call the roll and record who is present and who is not present. Then there is a motion to go to Executive Session and a vote.

Shadd was present after the executive session, when the open session resumed. His absence should have been noted at 5:30PM, and his presence recorded at 6:43PM, when the open session resumed. Picky? Sure, but correct.

In some states the vote for Executive Session must be by individual calling of names, not en masse by show of hands. Then the board exits to a private meeting room for the Executive Session.

When the board reconvenes in open session (after the Executive Session), another roll call should be taken, again recording who is present and who is not.

The Minutes of the board meetings do contain attendance. The Minutes are prepared by a staff employee and presumably carefully read and approved by the Board Secretary before they are submitted to the board for approval. I don't think I have ever heard a board member on Minutes or request a correction.

The Richland 2 School Board is a public body. When time permits, I'll do some digging to learn more this aspect of the S.C. Open Meetings Act.

Regarding the August 6 Executive Session, was the purpose of one item adequately described? The Agenda reads, "Item 2.1 A Contractual Matter Regarding the Superintendent's Evaluation". Is that enough, or should the agenda have stated the nature of the contractual matter to be discussed?

The Newberry County Council had a $13.000 lesson in July 2017, because it had failed to describe adequately the topic to be discussed in an executive session.

And two years before that, the North Augusta (S.C.) City Council found itself in the S.C. Supreme Court over "proposed contractual matter".

So was it enough in the 8/6/19 Richland 2 Agenda to say it pertains to the Superintendent's evaluation? Or should there have been a little more detail?

South Carolina has a very weak Open Meetings Act, when compared to the state of my previous residence.