Monday, June 08, 2015
Jim Kimbrough should already be on the Board of Education
Despite that, there is one area of the law in which I was consulted by reporters from many Missouri newspapers and television stations for years after I left the newspaper business in 1999. As someone who covered thousands of meetings during my 22 years as a reporter, I made it my business to learn the ins and outs of what could or could not be discussed in closed sessions.
School boards and city councils like to keep as many things as possible behind closed doors. Though some things are generally accepted as belonging in closed session- items about identifiable students, real estate dealings where the price could be affected, and legal matters for instance, there is absolutely nothing that has to be done in closed session.
The Sunshine Law says specifically that the bodies "may" discuss certain items in closed session. At no place does it say that closed meetings are required.
Quite some time ago, the C. J. Huff Administration began violating the law by dealing with retirements and resignations of teachers in closed session. Nothing in the law allows for that. The personnel exemptions are for "hiring, firing, promoting, or disciplining." Accepting a resignation or acknowledging a retirement does not fall into that category, though it had been keeping people from getting a clear idea of how many teachers were leaving the district.
As I finished reading the Joplin Globe article and checking out the television coverage of today's aborted attempt to have former member Jim Kimbrough returned to the R-8 Board of Education, it did not take long for me to come to a conclusion- Jim Kimbrough should already be on the board. When Board President Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci voted for Kimbrough May 26, with Lynda Banwart and Mike Landis voting against, that should have been enough to return him to the board.
The swearing in was halted by Norman Rouse, who apparently was contacted by concerned employees, despite the fact that Rouse's job description is board attorney, not conerned employees attorney.
As you recall, when Kimbrough, Marsi Archer, Sharrock Dermott, Anne Sharp, Dave Guilford, and the rest of the applicants were interviewed by the board, it was done in open session and the same has been true for every vote.
That is because there is no allowance in the Sunshine Law to close the meeting for such a purpose. The new board member is not an employee, therefore you are not hiring him. It is an appointment to serve until the next election.
No matter what Rouse or the predictably overly cautious Missouri School Boards Association says if this is not hiring, and it is not, it comes nowhere near fitting any of the other criteria that would require four votes, therefore the majority of the quorum, three votes, should have been sufficient to put Jim Kimbrough on the board of education and stop this power play by Lynda Banwart and Mike Landis to take the decision making out of the hands of the people who were elected to the board to bring about change and put it in the hands of a County Commission, made up of two people who live outside the district and one who is highly compromised in this situation because of his past dealings with Lynda Banwart, dealings that have still not been mentioned in the Globe.
From the way the Globe article reads, it appears that the people in the C. J. Huff Administration may have undermined this effort to have Kimbrough sworn in as another desperate attempt to hold on to the status quo (and quite possibly their jobs).