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RH board member#039;s proposal for 48-hour notice shot down, 3-2

Rules and regulations were the debated issue at Tuesday evening's Rock Hill School Board meeting.

Board member Wanda Jenkins proposed that before next Thursday's special meeting, each board member receive an agenda at least 48 hours in advance, and that the media be given at least a 48-hour notice of the meeting.

"I didn't get my agenda for this meeting until Monday evening," Jenkins said. "It's not asking too much."

"No one has a problem with putting it on paper, but last-minute issues arrive that prevent it from being ready within 48 hours," Board President Jackie Harris said.

Board member Carl Large seconded Jenkins' proposal, but Harris and fellow board member Troy Hardy voted against the proposal, saying it wasn't necessary. When it came time for board member Richie Donohoe to vote, he sought guidance from a book and spent several minutes thumbing through pages.

"It says here board members should get the agenda several days in advance of the meeting," Donohoe said. "It doesn't specify a time frame."

"Then I will," Jenkins said.

Jenkins was within her right to do so, according to Pat Schmitz, of the Ohio School Boards Association's legal division.

"Board members can adopt a policy to set a schedule for meeting agendas," Schmitz said. "Otherwise, agendas are a matter of parliamentary procedure. There is nothing in state law about this. Forty-eight hours is fairly common, but it's not a legal requirement. The board may set its own deadline."

On the issue of meeting notification, Ohio Revised Code states that "The board, committee or sub-committee must comply with its own rules to provide notice to any person who has requested it. The board, committee or sub-committee must also provide at least 24 hours advance notice to the news media that have previously requested notice of the time, place and purpose of any special meeting. Thus, failure to notify local media of an emergency or special meeting as required by ORC 121.22 (F) could make action taken invalid."

"Just flip a coin, Richie," one apparently exasperated person in the audience called out as Donohoe flipped through the book.

"I'd just like to know ahead of time what we're going to be talking about," Jenkins explained as Donohoe read through the book.

"(Superintendent) Lloyd (Evans) told us in the executive session what we're going to be discussing next week," Harris said. "It's to discuss personnel and insurance."

Jenkins said her motion for getting an agenda 48 hours in advance did not just for next week's special meeting, but for every meeting.

"That's not the way I wrote your motion," Harris said. "You can't change it now."

Jenkins responded that she may bring this issue up again at future meetings.

In the end, Donohoe joined Harris and Large and voted against the proposal, which failed 3-2.

The debate came after a lengthy executive session which was the first item on the agenda. The board went behind closed doors at 7 p.m., immediately after the roll call, and came out to finish the rest of the meeting at approximately 11:40 p.m. People who came to address the board or who had interest in other matters had to wait until then.

Evans said the executive session was "to discuss a security issue with the Elizabeth Township Volunteer Fire Department and for personnel."

Again, Harris also mentioned that the agenda for next week's special meeting was also discussed. Discussion of the special meeting's agenda is not permissible under Ohio's Open Records, or "Sunshine" law.

The law states that:

a) The appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of an employee or official or the investigation of charges or complaints against an employee, official, licensee or student, unless the employee, official, licensee or student requests a public hearing.

b) The purchase of property for public purposes or the sale of property at competitive bidding.

c) Conferences with the board's attorney to discuss matters which are the subject of pending or imminent court action.

d) Preparing for, conducting, or reviewing negotiations or bargaining sessions with employees.

e) Matters required to be kept confidential by federal law or rules or state statutes.

f) Specialized details of security arrangements.

Each executive session discussion must be limited to the purpose or purposes stated. It is unlawful to state only one purpose for an executive session, but to then discuss a second topic. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune