Chariho School Parents’ Forum

January 13, 2009

School Committee Meeting – Agenda Item 1

Filed under: Nov 18 meeting (where I was removed from office) — Editor @ 10:36 pm

I’m home early tonight.  Actually, when I saw that George Abbott was absent I knew it would be an early night.  Although, his vote wouldn’t have mattered.

The Committee voted to “accept my resignation” which they say was made when I accepted the Town Council seat.  I was once again removed from the Committee.

I had held out hope that Michelle Cole and/or Bob Petit would change their vote and Holly Eaves would not vote, but no such luck.

You can watch the meeting tomorrow night but here are some high points.

Previously, Mr. Anderson argued that council members can vote to withdraw a town from the District and because of this authority I was in conflict.  We pointed out that withdrawal is done by a vote of the people – council members don’t have that authority. 

So Anderson has changed his argument and now relies on the Caroulo Act as the reason I have a conflict. In essence, if the school ever sued the town using said Act, I would be on two sides of the issue.

Again, representing the exact same constituency, we don’t see that conflict.  Gorham also made some legal points refuting this (see memorandum below and the video tomorrow).

Then I pointed out that Mr. Anderson was also wrong when he only told the Committee about laws in GA and WA that do not allow dual seats.  Not wrong maybe, but lacking in his responsibility to present all information.  This blog has uncovered examples of people holding two seats (even town council and school committee) in NH and CT.  I told the Committee but that didn’t seem to matter either.

h/t RS: Andy Polouski did respond to this point – sorta.  He said he searched the Internet and couldn’t find anyone in “Charlestown, Richmond or Hopkinton” that has ever held two seats.  I didn’t realize precedence had such a local flair.

And, of course, the lawyers argued whether or not Anderson was wrong in telling them to vote during the Nov 18 meeting. The Court said it should not have happened, but Anderson continued to say the judge “denied” calling it a violation (it has been put into abeyance).  Gorham pointed out that the judge doesn’t do that – the AG does.  So a game of semantics. 

While we still disagree there is any conflict at all (read the previous post), more important is the fact that the Committee gave itself the power to remove me. 

Nick Gorham described how the legislature gives the School Committee its powers via legislation (as a former representative, I take him as an expert on this issue) and it has not given them that authority.  Bob Petit asked if there is any law saying they CAN’T do it.  I don’t know how Gorham answered him without laughing but he did – and repeated that while there is no law saying you ‘can’t’ do it, powers are granted via legislation and since it was not granted it is illegal. But I don’t think Bob was really interested in the answer.

In previous comments, Mr. Hirst also brings up that Chariho doesn’t have standing to act because the Town Council is the only one who can make the appointment.  But this speaks to the other point Gorham made that the Committee isn’t judge, jury and attorney – they don’t have that authority.  

Basically, we made the argument that while we don’t think there is any reason I can’t sit on two seats, to be sure we should ask the Attorney General to rule via the quo warranto.  We asked that the Committee NOT take it into its own hand and simply ask the AG as the law describes.   Why not do it by the book?

But that too fell on deaf ears.

The vote went 7-3 (including my vote that isn’t counted). 

Considering my attorneys showed that Chariho was given bad legal advice on the Nov 18 meeting with its act removing me (also supported by the court), bad legal advice about if other states allow dual seats (why didn’t he tell them about our neighbors?), and bad legal advice that Town Council members have the authority to withdraw from the district, perhaps this isn’t really about dual seats and more about what happens to whistle blowers (as suggested in Pat Buckley’s letter).

Other than Holly Eaves, everyone voting against me has a family member working at Chariho. I think we know what this is really about.

We will be in court this Thursday @ 9:30.

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30 Comments »

  1. The result didn’t surprise me, I am most displeased with how J Anderson presents the case as remarkably black and white. The first element, right of the board to expel a member, seems very straight forward, per Felkner Motion. The second will need to be determined by those more familar with RI law. While I don’t see the conflict of interest, or why it would be prohibited, could the court declare the SC seat effectively a town elected position (Based on the Hopkinton being the provider of the certificate of election, et al.) Maybe, I don’t know election law. But the appropriate step would have been to go to the attorney general.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 14, 2009 @ 1:04 am | Reply

  2. In regards to the “conflict of interest” issue, my opinion of this rule would be that the offices would need to be in “constant” conflict or with “significant” supervisory control. Neither is the case here. While there may be times that BF will have to recuse, the normal functioning of the bodies is not in conflict.

    Having a relative working for the district is far more distressing then having two offices with the same electors.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 14, 2009 @ 1:20 am | Reply

  3. Summmary of comments by members:

    BP: Felt both are town positions, therefore BF is not eligible to hold both. He claimed many people in town had expressed dissatisfation to him about BF holding both roles. He was extremely vocal in his opposition to BF.

    AP: Re-vote is just to fix OMA technicality. Judge meant nothing else by the TRO.

    BD: Must disqualify so that the court will make a decision.

    DC: No point to discuss for hours, minds are mde up, proper course of action is to have solicitor contact AG, leave BF on SC. SC isn’t lawyers, this issue is complicated.

    AM: Response to DC, since we are not lawyers, we hire one, JA says to BF can’t serve, so he has to go.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 14, 2009 @ 2:53 am | Reply

  4. Someone should have told Mr. Petit that breaking the law isn’t acceptable because his friends urge him on. His life is full of examples where peer pressure gets him into trouble, and here he goes again.

    Not wanting someone to serve on the Town Council and the School Committee doesn’t make a person unreasonable, but taking the law into your own hands does. I wonder if Bobbo the clown tells the people objecting to Mr. Felkner that Mr. Petit’s cousin does the budgeting for Chariho and earns lots of money for it? I wonder if the objectors would have a problem with Mr. Petit’s conflicts? I’m guessing Mr. Petit doesn’t mention that in his conversations.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 14, 2009 @ 9:52 am | Reply

  5. The only thing I can say about BP is I will happily accept his involuntary resignation. Since he derives his power from the elctorate, and he feels he has the power to force an involuntary resignation, then the electorate must have the same powers as well.

    Comment by RS — January 14, 2009 @ 10:03 am | Reply

  6. I forgot to add, I will do this without the puppet strings attatched. The difference of being a free thinker.

    Comment by RS — January 14, 2009 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  7. Hi!
    AS a four term town council member, I know something about school committee appointments. In fact I was in the majority of a 3-2 appointment of Stephanie Brown to a vacancy. I assume many or some of you will bust me up about that. I was not acquainted with her at the time.
    Consider the oath of office. It says among other things you serve “until another is engaged in your room”, which means place or you are discharged from that office. The Hopkinton Town Council is the only body that can accept a school committee resignation from Hopkinton. They have not accepted a resignation from Mr. Felkner. Even if they assumed there was a resignation by the process the school committee acted on last night, Mr. Felkner most certainty would have a right to object. The school committee may have in the past, accepted resignations from the school committee but I see no standing for them in doing so. Only town councils can officially accept school committee resignations. If memory serves me correctly when Lois Russell resigned, the Hopkinton Town Council accepted her resignation then appointed Ronald Preuhs, Jr.,. I would have to check HTC minutes to be sure.
    Procedurally, I question how this thing has been handled.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — January 14, 2009 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  8. You’re preaching to the choir.

    Comment by RS — January 14, 2009 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  9. Did someone suggest the Town Council simply appoint Mr. Felkner to the vacancy? While I hope for, and expect, the legal system to bring the School Committee to heel, should the courts fail Hopkinton, then I can’t see any reason why Mr. Felkner can’t be appointed back onto the School Committee.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 14, 2009 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

  10. I did suggest that in writing to the council. If the SC doesn’t get a ruling on dual office holding by an elected and appointed position(as opposed to elected/elected), then why shouldn’t the TC appoint the candidate of their choice ??

    Maybe if BF loses initially, this can be answered in the appeals process.

    Comment by RS — January 14, 2009 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

  11. George Abott’s vote would have been big.Roberts Rules in Chapter XX states that a 2/3 majority is required to remove some one from office. The vote would have been 6 to 4, and the motion would fail. The CSC should have counted BF’s vote since a court order placed him back on the CSC.

    Webster’s College Dictionary defines resignation as “a formal statement, document, etc.stating that one gives up an office or position”.So, there never was a resignation. I am astounded that this Alice in Wonderland thinking from the minds of the leadership that guides the education of our children exists in the real world.

    Comment by Henry Walsh — January 14, 2009 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  12. I did go out and purchase a Roberts book and was trying to figure out which votes only require a simple majority and which require a 2/3. That being said however, unless you are on the SC it would be impossible for you to correct an error such as this one.

    There isn’t any Alice in Wonderland thinking or any thinking on the issues at all, it’s simply an agenda to have BF off the council so they can continue to run the bastardized process they call meetings at their will. I say this after witnessing the many infractions of RRO during the SC meetings. Outside of DC, I honestly don’t think anyone on the SC has read RRO nor do they present the least bit of desire to follow the rules when it comes to the trainwreck show of ousting BF, at other times they “pretend” to attempt to follow some form of RRO, and they do so in a nonchalant(as if its just for fun) fashion.
    The agenda overrides all else with the Chariho SC, and these fine elected officials do not have their constituents interest in mind as witnessed by BP’s attempt to rationalize his decision for voting against BF. Forget about the interest of our children’s education, that has been lost long before BF was ever heard of.

    Comment by RS — January 14, 2009 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

  13. Henry,
    Thanks for your input. Any resignation has to be directed to the Town Council where the school committee resides. Only town councils can officially accept the resignations and name replacements. In the Felkner case even if the Hopkinton Town Council accepted this so-called resignation, Mr. Felkner would have a case against the Hopkinton Town Council as he has not tended a resignation in writing. Had he removed from town, like changing his voter registration outside Hopkinton, legally I could see him being seen vacating the office without an official resignation.
    I consider the school committee activity on this inappropriate and not authorized by law. The actions of the Chariho School Committee are an abuse of office, and they should be held accountable for it.
    Regards,
    Scott Bill Hirst
    Member,Hopkinton Town Council, 1996-2004
    Vice Chairman, Hopkinton Republican Town Committee
    Member, Now non existant first and only Hopkinton Charter Revision Commission

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — January 14, 2009 @ 3:21 pm | Reply

  14. Scott … If you are correct, that a resignation can only be accepted by a TC, then how could JA be so far out of touch with these rules?

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 14, 2009 @ 3:48 pm | Reply

  15. maybe because he’s a hack…..

    Having a degree in something and even practicing said something doesn’t make one a profesioinal or even knowledgeable of what they are doing. It simply means they have the ability to sit throught a course of instruction and exit the other side with a piece of paper saying they have that ability(to participate and pay attention)……doesn’t say they are any good at what they profess to be.

    Comment by RS — January 14, 2009 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  16. Mr. Anderson was under instructions to justify the ouster of Mr. Felkner. Didn’t really matter to the School Committee majority how he did it. They just wanted it done so they could pretend they were just following the advice of their lawyer.

    He wants to keep his job so he did as commanded. Not complicated, and it is painfully obvious by his willful omittance of advising the School Committee of oppositional legal opinion. While it is understandable for a lawyer to be one-sided in the courtroom; there is no excuse for Mr. Anderson to have ignored alternative legal opinion when he initially proposed the ouster of Mr. Felkner.

    I also wonder what our legal bills will be down the road. It’s fine and dandy that Mr. Anderson’s retainer will cover the Felkner affair, but what are the implication for future legal issues? Would they have been covered by the retainer, but now the retainer is gone and we’ll be paying additional fees for any other legal matters which arise? Nothing is free.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 14, 2009 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  17. Where does a lawyer, an officer of the court, cross the professional misconduct line?

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 14, 2009 @ 5:24 pm | Reply

  18. Imagine going to an attorney ad only getting a one sided, biased scenario as legal advice and then trying to make a decision based on this information. You would have grounds to file a complaint, and sue this attorney, but the SC is in love with what he is doing so the saga continues…..

    Comment by RS — January 14, 2009 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  19. What matters the most is adressed the least-it does not matter how many members in Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton have been elected to two offices and resigned one. What matters is, would any of them have been required by the CHARIHO ACT to resign. Specifically, is Mr. Felkner required to resign his position? Until that is resolved in a court of law, I don’t believe that anyone can vote, cajole, require, or threaten Mr Felkner with removal from the SC. Sadly, common sense does not prevail, and a self appointed lawless posse is out to remove Mr Felkner. If Mr Felkner prevails, and his rights, and the rights of all Hopkinton voters has been violated, lawsuit anyone?

    Comment by Dorothy — January 15, 2009 @ 12:17 pm | Reply

  20. I wonder…..the filing of an OMA violation doesn’t seem overly important to very many citizens, so how important will filing a lawsuit be ??
    There may still be OMA violations filed as the statute allows 180 days.

    http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE42/42-46/42-46-8.HTM

    The following case is an interesting read and has some very similar circumstances as our own OMA violation. If one is worried about the costs of such a suit, this case might give them some insight.

    Frederick S. Tanner v. The Town Council of the Town of East Greenwich et al

    Comment by RS — January 15, 2009 @ 1:03 pm | Reply

  21. Hi!
    I am anxiously waiting what went on today. It is a FACT only the town council can formally accept a school committee members resignation. In the past the school committee, I believe has but the town council institutionally, the only one that can accept it. While it the boards such as planning board, zoning board, or any other board members resigns only the appointing authority to fill the vacancy can accept the resignation including the elective school committee members. It may be different in places with Mayors and you may know school commitee members in Providence are appointed, I recall by the Mayor?
    In Connecticut, I recall Boards of Education fill their own vacancies. I believe that is correct. Both Bill Day and Andy Polouski are both former town council members and assuming press reports are correct they never questioned of the school committee stepping into the role, which properly is the purview of the Hopkinton Town Council, in this case, not theirs! Even, if the Hopkinton Town Council thought there was a vacancy, Mr. Felkner without a formal letter of resignation, would still have a case.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — January 15, 2009 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  22. Hi!
    To answer Gene Daniel, I think a lot of officials and the public, do not understand their offices. I could be wrong on this, but I don’t think so. You can find lawyers who can reach multiple opinions. I do not know the school committee lawyer. However, you certainly can look at his argument. I have taken law related courses in college.My academic background is political science. My brother graduated with high honors from CCRI in a paralegal associate’s program. While we are not attorneys, I think we can hold our own for non lawyers.
    Assume a board or committee does not agree with a town council appointment, unless there is a violation in that appointment or resignation process, who gets to decide if it is valid? The appointing authority in this case is clearly the town council not the school committee, and they would clearly have that right of decision making, unless a court ruled otherwise. Note that the school committee does NOT have the support of the only authority to make an appointment, the Hopkinton Town Council in the Felkner matter. They are the ones who could if a resignation was in writing accept it, and name a replacement. A school committee can accept other resignations but I do not see a case where school committee can accept its own members resignations at least in an official sense, although they may have in the past.
    I will stand corrected if I am wrong!
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — January 15, 2009 @ 6:21 pm | Reply

  23. Nothing happened today. Tomorrow at 11am.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 15, 2009 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  24. Hi!
    Approaching 1 P.M., and I do not accept the idea that the Hopkinton Town Council appoint Bill Felkner to his own school committee seat, as that would legitimize the school committee’s authority to declare a seat vacant, which I feel they do not have the power to do in the Felkner case.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — January 16, 2009 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

  25. AG weighed in, case to be heard at Supreme Court.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 16, 2009 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

  26. Weighed in how? For or against Hopkinton having its representation?

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 16, 2009 @ 3:07 pm | Reply

  27. AG: Superior court does not have jurisdiction, needs to go to Supreme.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 16, 2009 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  28. What does Diana Ross have to do with anything? (Sorry, it struck me and I couldn’t resist.)

    So other than the jurisdiction issue, the Attorney General’s office had nothing to say on the matter? Cowards…is anything worse than politics?

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 16, 2009 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

  29. I didn’t read it but was told that the AG did not make any comments relating to the merits of the case.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 16, 2009 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  30. REF#24.

    The suggestion to appoint is if the courts rule one cannot hold 2 “elected” postitions, once the court rules I believe the concern of legitimizing anything the SC has done is moot.

    Comment by RS — January 19, 2009 @ 12:37 am | Reply


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