My FOIA complaint filed in response to the 8/4/15 CSD BOE meeting.

foiapic

Office of the Attorney General,
 
This e-mail is intended to serve as a complaint designed to determine the legality of actions at a meeting held by the Christina School District Board of Education on Tuesday, August 4th, 2015.
 
Attached is the agenda which was posted in compliance with the 7 day rule for an executive session of the board.
 
Specifically, the agenda cites that the purpose of the meeting is:
 
B. PERSONNEL MATTERS
1. Personnel Matters Include a Discussion of the Superintendent’s Competencies and Abilities [See 29 Del C 10004 (b)(9)]
 
 
​I have two concerns regarding this agenda item:
 
 
 
contains specific guidance to the school board in Appoquinimink that in the context of a contract discussion that must be public, a discussion that reached into the area of competencies and abilities should not be shielded from the public because the position of Superintendent is not “typical” as an employee and that the “public has a substantial interest in a superintendent’s job performance”. Ultimately, the opinion indicates that the public was “entitled to monitor and observe” the contract discussion even if a portion touched on the superintendent’s “competencies and abilities as superintendent”.
 
2) By using the words “include a discussion” in the 8/4/15 agenda it may imply, or be inferred, that that there could be other personnel matters to be discussed or items other than the specific description limiting the discussion to “competencies and abilities” when in fact there were no other personnel matters at hand. If FOIA would protect the right of the public to monitor and observe competency and ability discussions for a superintendent outside a contract discussion (opinion desired on this point), then the inaccurate wording suggesting items other than discussing the superintendent’s competency and abilities may have been used to deny the public access as the meeting was held as an executive session and the public was not permitted to attend.
 
Based on these 2 concerns in combination, I am asking for clarification of the previous FOIA opinion in order to ensure the CSD BOE acted properly. It is my ardent hope that we did so, but I feel we need to confirm this in light of the Appoquinimink FOIA opinion.
 
Additionally, it has come to my attention (I was unable to attend this meeting due to a work meeting out of state) that the Board held a vote in executive session to prevent a board member from making and audio recording of the meeting (not sure that practice is permitted/not permitted). I believe that all votes must occur in public and not in an executive session. I am seeking to determine if this was a FOIA violation with the expectation that a determination as such would likely not yield a remediation beyond a response indicating the BOE will not hold any votes in executive session.
 
Board Members in attendance:
  • Harrie Ellen Minnehan: President
  • Fred Polaski: Vice President
  • Elizabeth Paige
  • David Resler
  • Shirley Saffer
Respectfully submitted, 
 
John M. Young
Christina School Board Member
109 Cypress Dr. 
Newark, DE 19713
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14 thoughts on “My FOIA complaint filed in response to the 8/4/15 CSD BOE meeting.

  1. Pingback: Is Christina School Board morphing in a charter like school board of directors ? | Kilroy's Delaware

  2. elizabeth

    Your foia itself is pro forma to what you said it would be.

    The Twist to my Mundane Sunday?

    The recording of executive sessions by individual board members? That’s always been? Oh, We know differently. When we created the district recording policy we specifically exempted executive session. It was a dangerous slope. Too dangerous when you’re dealing with the privacy of employees and children whose rights are protected under federal law. I am surprised that any board member would want to bear that weight. It’s a legal albatross.

    At least it used to be.

    Well, good for him or her. We’ll see how the public responds? Or if the public responds?

    1. John Young

      Policy does not sanction, nor prohibit individual board member’s actions. Recording could be used for personal note taking/refresher of discussion or as evidence that public items were discussed inappropriately.

      Policy:

      Recording of School Board Meetings

      The Board intends to make an audio or audiovisual recording of all public meetings, where action is to be taken. This is not a current requirement of Delaware Code, but a desire by the Board to make available the activities of the Board to a broader audience than those able to attend public meetings.

      The Board meetings will not be delayed, interrupted or postponed due to problems with recording equipment. Any audio or audiovisual recordings shall be the official record of the public Board meeting, but may be available for public access, through the District website. Any audio and/or audiovisual recordings of the Board meeting shall be retained and disposed of in accordance with the District’s records retention schedule.

      Members of the public will be made aware that they are being recorded, and the use of the recorded message is at the discretion of the District, without recourse.

      On Sun, Aug 23, 2015 at 11:39 AM, Transparent Christina wrote:

      >

  3. It was noted in that executive session that I was thee only board member with a phone on the table, and I was asked if I was recording. In fact, I was texting my children as I was waiting for the meeting to begin and would never think to record an executive session. This is not the first time I was asked if I was recording a meeting. I have never personally recorded a meeting, private or public.

    Feeling targeted and for some odd reason wanting to prove my innocence, I did second the motion and voted not to record the meeting. I will own that mistake and promise not to ever let it happen again.

  4. Elizabeth

    There’s a word missing. Unless of course the recordings are now considered the official record. And there is certainly a difference between the board making an official recording of an executive session and properly retaining/destroying those records compared to an individual board member, who has no individual authority making personal recordings that contain confidential information.

    I am NOT saying it’s wrong. I AM calling it dangerous and I hope that my tax dollars will never be spent defending an individual board member who has made a rogue recording that has some how been leaked to a body who was 1) not present at the meeting and 2) not Germane to the context.

    And with this board in this district, and the way that anonymous accusations are thrown about, it would not surprise me if this is exactly where such practices lead – a lawsuit brought by an individual discussed in executive session whose personal information finds its way out. The recorder will automatically be assumed to be the leak even if he/she is innocent.

    It’s too dangerous for me. But, to each their own.

  5. John Young

    Just so I’m clear Elizabeth, are you outraged about a possible misuse of a recording, or the possible illegal action of voting in executive session more? You can certainly be outraged by both, but does one bother you more?

    If you are concerned at all about a possible illegal vote, isn’t a FOIA complaint a responsible, transparent way to address it?

  6. elizabeth

    Asked like a person who really cares what my opinion is…

    You announced you would foia the meeting after it was committed to history. You were not interested in my advice to pre-foia the meeting to avoid a violation before one could occur.

    The vote – that’s an interesting turn of events. My board did not vote in executive session, although sometimes, board members foreshadowed the the direction of their vote on particularly steamy issues, as a matter of politeness and/or respect for the body (even when there was little respect for those of whom the body consists.)

    Ms. Paige has already offered a public apology for her participation. I expect that the full board will opine the same if a violation if found. What outrages me is the long-standing board members who 1) allowed the vote to move forward and 2) actually participated in it.

    A FOIA complaint is absolutely the responsible, transparent, method for addressing such an action. I can only hope the AG holds some parties more responsible than others although we all know that’s not how it works. The body will be bloodied and Mr. Young, the electorate (those of the electorate who care) will tell its a job well done.

    What I can’t wrap my head around is how ANY of this behavior helps children in classrooms?

    I am not outraged, sir. I am appalled.

    1. John Young

      Couldn’t agree more. Board members need to understand their roles and those that withhold information from others simply impede the governance necessary to help children. Worse, others don’t seem to take past experience in governance and apply the positive parts while discarding the negative. I’m not speaking of any single member, but some about all.

      It’s a disease, and I think I know how you feel about those that flout the FOIA statute and act to secretly traffic information that board members need to make informed decisions.

  7. Elizabeth

    Well, you certainly do. You know I believe foia to be one of the greatest gifts of democracy. Other than esquire, (and him b/c a previous foia found he presided over an “illegal” meeting after being notified his meeting was in fact not properly posted) I can’t imagine who on this board would have the faintest interest in secretly trafficking information. Who is it trafficked to? And how is that action any less offensive to the senses than broadcasting it thru blogoland?

    what’s wrong with waiting to converse at the appropriate place and time, at a compliantly posted meeting w/ a quorum?

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