I would like to address the “breaking news” reported today by The Joplin Globe concerning, as the Globe called it, my “move to swear in a member for the Joplin Schools Board of Education’s empty seat.”
Did I request the board secretary to swear in Jim Kimbrough to fill the vacant seat? Yes. Was it done with deceptive intention? No. It was done intentionally, after much consultation and discussion with advisors, in an effort to resolve our current impasse and keep selection of the remaining board members in the board’s hands. Did I make a mistake? In process, yes. In the decision, no.
Let me explain. Since the Board’s meeting on May 26th there has been a tremendous amount of discussion about whether the majority vote in favor of Jim Kimbrough (3-2) should have passed. Board policy BDDF-1 governs this issue and states the following: “A motion shall pass if a majority of those members present vote in favor of the motion, provided that a quorum is present, unless otherwise prescribed by law or policy. An affirmative vote of the majority of the whole Board is required to enter into a contract, employ a person, approve a bill or issue a warrant.” At the time of the meeting, there was conflicting guidance that led us to believe a majority of the entire board, whether present or not, was required . . . that meant we thought we needed 4 votes (of the 6 sitting members) to pass a motion.
This issue has grown in significance due to the recent resignations of two board members, the increasing possibility of the appointment decision falling to the commissioner’s office and the conflicts of interest between the county commissioner’s office and a sitting board member, as well as our board attorney. We are in an extremely difficult and unusual situation and I have been in constant communication with the MSBA, the state parliamentarian, our board attorney, and other legal advisors familiar with school board issues and state statutes . . . all in a sincere effort to find a resolution. Based on those discussions and multiple reviews of state statutes, applicable case law, and our own policy, it was determined that the 3-2 majority vote of those members present and forming a quorum was sufficient to carry the motion and it should have passed. This item was originally to be discussed at our meeting on June 23rd. However, when I was informed Friday that the Jasper County Commissioners would be discussing the appointment matter at their meeting on Tuesday, I decided action was needed.
Unfortunately, I misunderstood how to remedy the situation. According to MSBA “you simply recognize that at least one of these seats was filled in the past, the Board erroneously called it as not passing, and amend the minutes to reflect that. Minutes can be amended with a majority of the quorum. ”
I apologize if my action today gave the appearance of deception or “not playing by the rules.” I was in fact, trying to follow the rules already in place, but had to first determine which statues and policies applied. Though my intent for taking action quickly was sincere, my understanding of the correction process was lacking and for that, I apologize. MSBA has given advice on how to correct the minutes and I intend to do so at the next regularly scheduled meeting on June 23rd. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.