Thursday, August 11, 2016

TUSD Board President Violated Open Meeting Law on August 8, 2016 . . . Shall We Vote?!?

School boards are governmental bodies.  As such, each school board member should really know, understand, and follow the law.  At least one member of the TUSD School Board--who happens, unfortunately, to be the president--does not seem to know or, at the very least, follow the law.  She is not a lawyer, and legal counsel did not advise her properly (or she failed to ask for legal counsel before exposing herself to legal issues), so . . . there's that.  Still, she has been on the TUSD SB for over a decade, so . . .yeah, there's that too.

So . . . are we ready to drop the excuses?  I sure am.  To that end, for educational purposes, here is a brief overview of some pertinent law.

A.R.S. § 38-431.09(A) asserts: ". . . any uncertainty under the Open Meeting Law should be resolved in favor of openness in government. Any question whether the Open Meeting Law applies to a certain public body likewise should be resolved in favor of applying the law."

The AZ Open Meeting Law Handbook § 7.5.2, Circumvention of the Open Meeting Law, advises: ". . . .  Public officials should refrain from any activities that may undermine public confidence in the public decision making process established in the Open Meeting Law, including actions that may appear to remove discussions and decisions from public view."

And last, for now, Handbook § 7.7.7, Calls to the Public, makes clear:  "In 2000, the Legislature clarified the limitations on open calls to the public during public meetings. . . .  Members of the public body may not discuss or take action on matters raised during the call to the public that are not specifically identified on the agenda."

There was a great deal of uncertainty regarding the requirement that speakers during Call to the Audience state their address.  Legal counsel told the TUSD SB specifically--two times in the course of two consecutive weeks--that it is not necessary for speakers to state their address under AZ statute.  Yet the confusion persists.  Open meeting law makes clear that all uncertainty should be clarified in the name of increased openness.  Instead, however, the TUSD SB president had a man removed from the TUSD SB meeting; she was snarky and overly defensive, and she silenced another board member who might have injected some logic into the evening.  In so doing, she undermined public confidence in the public decision-making process.

Last, the TUSD SB was not permitted to take action against the speaker, nor was it permitted to act on the matter of whether speakers should state their addresses before speaking in front of the TUSD SB.  The matter was not specifically identified on the agenda.  Was ejecting a person from an open public meeting "taking action on a matter"?  I think so.

The TUSD SB has lost the community's respect.  It has now begun to lose its legal moorings as well.

But the TUSD SB still has authority.  And the only way that we, the public, can take back control of our schools is by breaking up the TUSD majority and replacing them with independent, disciplined, critical thinkers this November.  So . . . shall we vote?

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