Friday, April 29, 2022

Is Board paid for Committee meetings?

Will Richland 2 board members be paid for attending meetings of the Committee of the Whole ("Committee") that was approved on April 28, 2022?

Board members (and two trustees-elect) receive a per diem for board meetings (six members receive $340(?) per meeting; the Chair receives $400).

(All) board members can, but are not required, to attend meetings of the Committee. If they do attend, do they get paid?

How can the Committee meet without being considered a Board Meeting? If four board members show up, that's a quorum and it becomes an official meeting requiring (24-hour advance) Notice, Agenda, Minutes, etc.

Should they be paid for the April 28th special-called board meeting? It was announced as a board meeting.

It should have been announced as a meeting of the Committee of the Whole.

Why wasn't it? One reason is they probably couldn't have met in executive session. Had they met in the open, the public (those attending in person and those viewing on have been privy to every word said and all the body-language "statements" of those board members attending.

Who Blew Past Her Travel/Training Allowance?

The members of the Richland 2 school board have an annual allowance for travel, training and other expenses. I don't know the actual amount, but I've heard that it is $7,000 per School Year. The School Year ends June 30.

It's easy arithmetic to calculate the total budgeted amount. 7 x $7,000 = $49,000 (assuming each receives the same dollar amount)

Some trustees have not yet spent their allocated amount. HOWEVER, the total has already been exceeded. If you could follow the confusing discussion on Tuesday night, April 26, 2022, the superintendent doesn't intend to reimburse any trustees now, because the total has been exceeded. He claims it will take board approval for him to pay more. WRONG. And he doesn't want to reveal who blew past her allowance. WRONG.

You'll never persuade me that he doesn't know who blew up her budgeted amount. Or whether more than one trustee did.

How did a trustee (or trustee-elect) get reimbursed in excess of her allocation?

Somebody (well below the superintendent's own office) must be charged with examining and approving expense payments or reimbursements. WHO approved more than a trustee was eligible to receive? And who told that person to approve and pay it?

I don't know what the Reimbursement (or Request) Form looks like, but somewhere on the page should be these lines:

Amount Available:                   $______

This Request:                         - $______

Remaining Amount Available: $______ (cannot be less than 0)

A calculator shouldn't even be necessary for that simple subtraction.

The District should immediately recover over-payments made to any trustees (or trustees-elect).

The problem with yesterday's Motion for exec. session

After the April 28, 2022 special-called board meeting convened and the agenda was approved, the Chair stated what that day's (she called it "night's" meeting; it started at 4:30PM) meeting was to be about.

Holmes said she wanted to "make a little clarity to the public" about the meeting. 

What in the world does that mean? "make a little clarity to the public"? Those are the words of a 35-year educator who is head of a board of trustees managing a business with a $300,000,000 annual budget. Seriously?

Holmes said they had to go through that meeting first, so that they could get to the public forum that they planned to have. 

No, they didn't have to go through that meeting first to "get to the public forum". It was what they chose to do. 

What "public forum"? The Committee had not yet decided on any public forum. The Committee hadn't even met yet! 

Then Holmes said they had to do this (meeting) first, before they went into private things of having people come in ...

What "private things"? There aren't going to be any "private things". This is a public body!

Then Holmes called for a motion to go into executive session.

Trustee-elect McKie made the motion: ( at 06:45) "I move to convene in executive session for the purpose of a safety and security meeting." The motion was seconded by Trustee Agostini. The motion was approved by a hand-vote of 7-0. 

Was the executive session legal?

McKie said the purpose was "a safety and security meeting". No, the purpose was not a safety and security meeting. Holmes had just explained that the purpose was to establish how the Committee of the Whole ("Committee") would conduct its business (my words; not hers).

Setting the purpose and scope of the Committee is not an eligible exclusion for leaving public session and entering executive (private, secret) session. 

If the board members intended to discuss school safety and security, that is an eligible exclusion for which the board could enter executive session and met out of the public view. But that's not why they were meeting.

Are Minutes kept of executive sessions? While those Minutes would not normally be available to the public, a judge could order them to be available in camera.

Unfortunately, in South Carolina the only way to hold a public body (ex., a school board) accountable for violation of the State's Freedom of Information Act is to haul them into court. 

The District's in-house legal counsel is not going to do that. The SCSBA is not going to do that. The County Council is not going to do that. Our State Rep and State Senator will not do that. Will a member of the public fork over his own money to hire an attorney and force Richland 2 into court?