14 Sep 2014
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Friedman Questions BOE Minutes Omission

New board member asks why attorney advice on Washington vote not included.

Friedman Questions BOE Minutes Omission

A routine vote to approve the minutes of a prior Board of Education meeting led a new board member to question what makes it into the official accounting of the meeting.

BOE member Mark Friedman, who took office last month, questioned board members Tuesday evening on why advice from board attorney Richard Kaplow to the board at the May 3 reorganization meeting on the continuation of board policies. The advice was given as part of a discussing regarding continuation of the policy governing Washington School redistricting.

“I was interested in why that discussion was omitted,” he said.

Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan said interim BOE Secretary Vincent Yaniro is responsible for the preparation of the minutes of the meetings, but does not provide a transcript. The minutes are circulated to board members following the meeting for review and approved at the next meeting, making them official. Yaniro was not present at the meeting.

“Generally the minutes are not a full script of everything that happened,” Dolan said. “It is an overview.”

Friedman was referencing a discussion at the previous board meeting regarding what was a routine vote to continue past policy statements of the board. Kaplow provided advice to the board regarding a no vote on continuing a policy. Friedman asked Kaplow for the advice with regards to voting to not continue the controversial redistricting of Washington School students from Roosevelt Intermediate School to Edison Intermediate School.

BOE Vice President Rich Mattessich, a longtime opponent of the redistricting, had motioned to hold a separate vote on the policy resolution – from other routine organizational resolutions – in order to vote no on the redistricting policy. The policy resolution is a routine part of reorganization meetings.

Kaplow advised the board that under his reading of state law, a no vote on the resolution would not discontinue the policy. He said the no vote would allow the policy to continue and permit a new board discussion on the policy.

“A no vote would mean in my opinion on the law you are not voting to rescind, void, withdraw or otherwise change the policy,” Kaplow said at the May 3 meeting. “A no vote would probably require you to take additional action to codify the policy.”

The vote on continuing the Washington policy passed 6-3, with Mattessich voting no along with Mitch Slater and David Finn, who have voted against continuing the Washington policy in the past. Mattessich, Slater and Finn, who all live in the Washington neighborhood, were elected in part due to their opposition to the policy.

During her vote, new BOE member Rosanne Kurstedt indicated that she voted to approve continuing the policy due to Kaplow’s advice. In an interview after the meeting, Kurstedt, who paused for 12 seconds after her name was called in the roll call before she voted, said she planned to abstain on the vote originally. Friedman said Kaplow’s advice swung his vote as well.

“One of the comments in the minutes was a member of the public proposing putting emails on the website,” Friedman said. “That made it in. It seems to me that this is as important an item. I made a decision to vote a certain way.”

Friedman then motioned to amend the minutes to include Kaplow’s advice to the board in the official account of the meeting. Under parliamentary procedure, a legislative body can amend the minutes to include new items or correct inaccurate items.

A formal vote on amending the minutes and approving the amended version of the May 3 minutes was not taken on Tuesday night. BOE President Julia Walker said the formal votes will be taken at the board’s June 7 meeting due to the lack of a written motion from Friedman on Tuesday. She said she wanted to have the formal language in place to approve and did not want to use time at Tuesday’s meeting to draft the formal language.

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