Chariho School Parents’ Forum

November 19, 2008

Today’s Westerly Sun

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 2:30 pm
Richmond police officer escorts the Ashaway man out of a Chariho School Committee meeting after he refuses to leave.

WOOD RIVER JCT. — The Chariho Regional School Committee issued an order to declare a committeeman — who was sworn in to the Hopkinton Town Council a day earlier — no longer a member of the school board until a legal or state ruling says otherwise.

At issue is whether William J. Felkner can continue to hold his seat on the school board, despite being elected to the council on Nov. 4. Felkner has two years remaining in his school board term since being elected in 2006.

After the committee mulled over the matter for about an hour, a Richmond police officer escorted Felkner, of Ashaway, from the meeting when he refused to leave after being directed to do so by the school committee chairman.

Although the regular session for the committee was scheduled Tuesday for 7 p.m., the committee reportedly began debating Felkner’s status a half-hour earlier, when it had scheduled its executive session.

Before the committee planned to meet behind closed doors, it called the meeting to order in public session, at which time the debate on Felkner reportedly began when he took his seat at the committee table.

Chariho Solicitor Jon M. Anderson said, “It is my opinion, as the solicitor of this school district, that when you chose to raise your hand and take that oath of   office, you made a decision, and for that decision you must assume responsibility. And the decision is that you would prefer to be a member of the Town Council as opposed to a member of the School Committee.

“You have every right, as I’ve indicated, to disagree with my interpretation. … However, the place to exercise those rights is in a courtroom, not disrupting the business of this school district.”

Anderson said this morning that early in the meeting, he offered an analogy that President-elect Barack Obama — who recently resigned from the U.S. Senate — would not have been able to hold his Senate office after taking the oath of president.

He said he reviewed the Chariho Act, the district’s governing document, the Hopkinton Town Charter, a state law known as the Doctrine of Incompatibility and cases from other states that supported his opinion.

On Monday, when Felkner told The Sun he planned to remain on the school committee, he cited a clause in the Hopkinton Town Charter that bars elected members of town government from holding another elected position in town government. It also says: “Membership on boards or commissions that act as representation of the town of Hopkinton in regard to the School District shall not disallow that elector from serving on another board, committee, or commission in Town government.”

The 1986 version of the Chariho Act — the latest version posted on Chariho’s Web site before the district and town solicitors began reviewing an updated version — does not directly address the issue.

(Schools Superintendent Barry Ricci said he received the updated version of the Act before Tuesday’s meeting, but refused to release it this morning because he said he told the committee it would need to approve the document first. He has said the updated version is a compilation of existing amendments made to the Act, and not a rewrite.)

After Anderson issued his opinion to the committee, it approved a motion to disqualify Felkner from taking part in school committee meetings until told otherwise by the state Board of Elections or a court ruling is issued in his favor.

Those who supported the motion were: Andrew J. Polouski, of Charlestown; Holly Eaves, of Charlestown; newcomer Michelle Cole, of Richmond; Andrew McQuaide, of Charlestown; Terri Serra, of Richmond; and William G. Day, of Richmond. Voting against were George Abbott, of Hopkinton; and new members Deborah Carney, of Charlestown, and Richard Vecchio, of Hopkinton.

A prior motion to table that vote had failed.

Felkner’s votes on this and other motions were not counted because the committee chairman directed the clerk not to count votes from him.

After the vote was taken, Felkner refused to leave, and as the members sat in silence, Day — in his final hour as committee chairman before Eaves was later elected to the post — called the Richmond Police Department to have Felkner removed from the meeting.

After a brief recess and what appeared to be an unsuccessful attempt to move into the scheduled executive session in a room to the rear of the middle school library, the committee returned to its open session.

Felkner took his seat at the committee table, amid an audience that now included a Richmond police officer, along with Hopkinton councilors, some Hopkinton residents and others who attended for items listed on the agenda.

Eaves suggested allowing Felkner to sit at the table so the committee could move on with its business, but Anderson warned it would set a precedent of allowing a member of the public to sit at the committee table.

Despite Carney raising concerns earlier that Felkner had not been allowed to speak thus far, some school committee members suggested having a police officer remove him from the meeting.

Day eventually polled other committee members on if they thought Felkner should be removed — six said yes, four others and Felkner said no.

When Anderson reiterated his position that Felkner had the right to appeal his opinion, Felkner interjected: “And if you’re wrong, everything is wrong and you’ve restricted the town of Hopkinton from having their representation.”

As Anderson continued and suggested Felkner take his issue to court, Felkner said, “I don’t think it’s my job to prove myself on, I think it’s your job to prove myself off.”

The Richmond police officer then walked over to Felkner, at Day’s order, and told him to leave. “May I sit in the audience, officer,” Felkner asked as he walked toward the door.

“I believe you have to be removed,” the officer replied.

Felkner continued, “Can I even come back in?”

“No,” the officer said.

As Felkner walked out the door, Hopkinton resident Dorothy Gardiner yelled as she held a video camera, “Good job, Bill!”

By 10:18 p.m., Felkner had posted an entry on his blog, Chariho Parents Forum, about the incident.  Click here to read his blog.

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4 Comments »

  1. It is time for the Dorothy Gardiners and Bill Felkners of Hopkinton to “do the right thing” and pull out of the Chariho School District. You are clearly more enlightened than the unwashed citizens of Charlestown and Richmond (who have so often demonstrated their ignorance and short-sightedness by actually voting FOR funding education, the ninnies), so it would be in your best interest, and that of your children, to utilize that phenomenal tax base of yours (you know, the one you keep undercutting by disallowing new businesses? That one?) and build your own school system, since you clearly have a better way of doing it than the one already in place.

    We’ll even help you get started with some of that readin’ and writin’ stuff, if you want us to.

    Comment by Gabriel Corrigan — November 20, 2008 @ 9:34 am | Reply

  2. OK, now we know who the new cry baby on the blog is……would the winner please step forward….

    Gabriel….we present you with the lackey award.

    Comment by RS — November 20, 2008 @ 10:48 am | Reply

  3. but geez, wheel onli bee one thurd profishent in readn’ and writn’ cuz thats all Chairhoe can offer.

    Great record there Gabriel you actually going on record to support it???
    Because you would be the first (well besides CP’s attempt) to step forward and proudly proclaim credit for the great record at Chariho…..

    Comment by RS — November 20, 2008 @ 11:07 am | Reply

  4. No need for us to withdraw Mr. Corrigan. All we have to do is give families a choice and Chariho’s inability to educate our children, and your children, will be its own undoing.

    While there are many people falling over themselves to spend money at Chariho, it is rare to find anybody willing to crow about Chariho’s academic performance. Do you have it in you? Would you like to be the one to tell us what a great job Chariho is doing educating children. I’ve been dying to meet someone stupid enough to think Chariho is worth the money we’ve been paying. It could be you.

    Comment by Curious Resident — November 20, 2008 @ 11:21 am | Reply


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