How Public Will LM School District Process to Fill Doucette-Ashman Be?

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carla's picture
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31 people have submitted their names to be considered for appointment to the position on the Lower Merion School Board to be vacated by Linda Doucette-Ashman.

The question now becomes, will the process of selection of the new School Board Director be an open one - or will it be closed?

Reportedly, the Board will conduct interviews of 5 candidates at an open meeting later this month.

However, how will the 31 names be culled down to 5, and from this 5, how will the new Director be selected?

The public - and the Board - would benefit from a completely open process. To do otherwise would be a disservice to the entire community.

This is an opportunity for the Board to demonstrate its' ability to be representative of all of Lower Merion and to show all those who are cynical about the school district that they are wrong.

What are your thoughts out there about how to get the Board to adopt this approach?

Another question: will the votes of the sitting School Board Directors be public? Will we be able to know who voted for which Candidate?

And, also, will the public be permitted to participate in the selection process, either by public comment at the hearing where the five candidates are to be interviewed, or some other manner?

Do you out there think both of these things should happen? That the vote be open and the public be permitted to participate?

I figure I would throw this out there and start a conversation in the hopes the school district will learn to set more appropriate best practices.

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It will be interesting to follow this. I think they know they have to have public interviews of the final 5 (they had better).

You make a great point on what process will be used to whittle down the 30+. I don’t expect that to be an open process, but it should be.

While you don’t need a public meeting for it and I would not expect many to attend, citizens should be welcome to observe each and every interview. No need to make special times for the first interviews, but citizens should be welcome to observe - assuming they have first interviews for more than 5 candidates.

If the board intends to narrow 30+ resumes down to 5 with no interviews, citizens should see the written, objective criteria that was used to eliminate applicants along with a public posting of the resumes (contact info can be redacted).

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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There is a school board meeting tomorrow night. Anyone going? Would be a great question to ask there. It can also be sent to the LMSD web site (but this might just be a dark abyss of no return...)

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There is a school board meeting tomorrow night

Maybe you meant to post that yesterday, but the school board meeting is actually tonight, Monday the 18th, at LM high school.

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Thanks. My bad. :Cool

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Another question: will the votes of the sitting School Board Directors be public? Will we be able to know who voted for which Candidate?

Yes. School board votes must be public. So a week from tonight you will see them vote from among the 1-5 candidates who make it through the selection procress. If there's only one candidate at the end, then they'll just vote her/him up or down.

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Here's what the law says:

24 P.S. § 3-315

Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated Statutes Currentness 

Title 24 P.S. Education Chapter 1. Public School Code of 1949 (Refs & Annos) Article III. School Directors (Refs & Annos)Current Section§ 3-315. Filling of vacancies

In case any vacancy shall occur in any board of school directors by reason of death, resignation, removal from the district, or otherwise, ... in a school district of the second, third, or fourth classes, the remaining members of the board of school directors shall, by a majority vote thereof, fill such vacancy from the qualified electors of the district within thirty (30) days thereafter. In a district of the second, third, or fourth class, the person selected to fill such vacancy shall be a qualified elector of the district and shall hold his office, if the term thereof so long continues, until the first Monday of December after the first municipal election occurring more than sixty (60) days after the vacancy shall have occurred. At such election an eligible person shall be elected for the remainder of the unexpired term. If, by reason of a tie vote or otherwise, such vacancy shall not have been filled by the board of school directors within thirty (30) days after such vacancy shall have occurred from the qualified electors of the district, the court of common pleas of the proper county, upon the petition of ten or more resident taxpayers, shall fill such vacancy by the appointment of a suitable person from the qualified electors of the district if the term of the vacant office so long continues, until the first Monday of December after the first municipal election occurring more than sixty (60) days after the vacancy shall have occurred. At such election an eligible person shall be elected for the remainder of the unexpired term.

 

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There should be eight (Cool seats to fill (Melissa Gilbert was not involved in the purchase and implementation of the spyware_.

Accountability does not consist of "some personnel actions".

The disregard/inattentiveness/indifference of those eight cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, caused major damage to the School Districts reputation, and deprived the students of badly needed funds that could have gone toward their education.

One wonders just how much more serious a matter would have to be for the Directors to do the honorable and responible thing- resign.

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Carla, you and Politeia are looking good so far. Both of you have five-bangers.

Clearly, our mute passive-aggressive downvote trollie hasn't as yet swept the board with it's daily dose of negativity.

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Oh LOL outtathere, I think the down voter stopped by - look at the Wayne Natatorium post - ROFLMAO, who would vote down a historic marker???

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The names of the four candidates chosen to interview for the position posted on Patch: http://ardmore.patch.com/articles/school-board-names-four-candidates-for-open-seat

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Innocent And that Nathan, in and of itself was verrryyyy interestink....I see a Bruce girl in as a ringer, does anyone else? Unified Slate redux anyone? And nice to know my source was correct about the 31 original names.... School Board Names Four Candidates For Open SeatThe following four people will interview for former school board director Linda Doucette-Ashman's open seat: Lisa Hoffstein, Francie McCombs, Virginia Pollard and Richard Rasansky.

....The final four candidates were chosen in independent votes by each of the current school board directors. The four chosen candidates received the most votes when adding up each school board members preference, and a fifth candidate was not chosen because of a lack of comparable support, according to Board President David Ebby. "The four candidates had four votes each, and none of the other candidates came close," Ebby said after the Oct. 18 school board meeting. All four candidates will be interviewed by the School Board of Directors on Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in a special meeting at Lower Merion High School...."It is fantastic that so many people applied for this spot, and the resumes that came in were incredible," Ebby said.

Fantastic? Interesting word choice. I would say it was very telling Virginia Pollard would be the BEST choice and would give South Ardmore a voice, but shall we start the odds on who they will pick?

What will the Sit Down blog have to say on the matter, I wonder?

 

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Harriton has a Spinning Room and LMHS has a Wii Fitness Room? LOL

 

 

http://ardmore.patch.com/articles/photo-tour-of-the-new-lower-merion-high-school#photo-1788280

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They held a secret vote to eliminate 27 candidates! This is totally illegal!

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WHATTTTTTTT?????????????????????????????????????????????????

I thought all votes HAD to be public? 

 

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Oh but don't you see? They didn't "vote". That would have been illegal!!   Jawdropping!  They "cast preferences", which is outside the bounds of Sunshine! This is (unfortunately) about the LETTER of the LAW and not the SPIRIT?

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valley girl,

EXACTLY!!  Was just having this conversation with someone - I said -

You so DON'T get it. What and HOW they did it was ON PURPOSE so they could whittle down the numbers and NOT disclose. Right out of their normal dirty tricks play book.

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Oh but don't you see? They didn't "vote". That would have been illegal!!    They "cast preferences", which is outside the bounds of Sunshine!

If there was no vote, then is there also no result? What if other candidates show up on Monday demanding to be interviewed since there has been no vote to exclude them?

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EXCELLENT POINT ! Lexo, you hit on something - Doesn't everyone think now that every candidate should show up on Monday??

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The following clarification was added to the story: Some members of the public at the meeting expressed concern that the individual votes cast were not made in public, but the school board solicitor said that since every preference was submitted independently, by phone or email, no meeting was called and therefore the preferences would not have to be made public under Pennsylvania's sunshine laws.

No official meeting was called for the votes to be submitted. The matter in question then, is the legality of submitting preferences without calling a meeting.

 

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So Nathan, as a budding journalist in our area whom I am sure has caught onto the many "issues" with LMSD, are you just going to take that at face value or look into why they would deliberately skirt sunshine...again?

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No, the matter in question is doing what is right and just by the citizens of Lower Merion.

While the Sunshine Act supposedly allows such a decision to be made without a public meeting (I will research the case law when I get time), that does not mean the school board can't make any meeting for which their is an exception in the Sunshine Act allowing for a closed meeting open if they want to.

This is absolutely disgraceful. The resumes and decision making criteria of the board should be published to the public. Who knows how many great candidates were shut out for unknown reasons. The People should be able to review this decision making process, and if we had an open and honest school board, citizens would be able to review this (and they should have been able to witness the meeting where these decisions were made).

After covering-up what happened with principals spying on kids in their bedrooms in a premeditated manner, you would think the school board would be a little more forthright with citizens going forward, but some things never change.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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This is absolutely disgraceful. The resumes and decision making criteria of the board should be published to the public. Who knows how many great candidates were shut out for unknown reasons. The People should be able to review this decision making process, and if we had an open and honest school board, citizens would be able to review this (and they should have been able to witness the meeting where these decisions were made).

After covering-up what happened with principals spying on kids in their bedrooms in a premeditated manner, you would think the school board would be a little more forthright with citizens going forward, but some things never change.

This should come as no surprise and I doubt that it really does with you, at least. How much plainer does this group have to make it that they will only be just as accountable for anything as the law forces them to be?

If the taxpayer/voters do not rise up and demand their resignations, then far as I'm concerned, they are getting just what they deserve and they'll continue to get more of the same over and over and over again.

Forthright? Don't expect it from them. That's not what they are made of.

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the school board solicitor said that since every preference was submitted independently, by phone or email, no meeting was called and therefore the preferences would not have to be made public under Pennsylvania's sunshine laws.

That may be so, except it ignores that there is no provision for such a mechanism - deciding things by anonymously phoned-in preference - in the laws of Pennsylvania. Does the school board maintain that they can decide anything they want to like that? Perhaps a tax increase? Perhaps the next budget? Perhaps a teacher hiring or firing? Why bother meeting or deliberating on anything?

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I was up all night trying to figure out how the solicitor sat there with a straight face and told me that this was legal. Then it finally sank in.

This board does not ask it's solicitor for guidance, they ask for cover. Instead of asking "what's legal here" they must be asking "can we get away with this?". This is how we end up in court all the time.

The SB argument goes like this:
1.we did not meet so we did not have a quorum
2.we voted and took action
do they really not see that If both those statements are true, then they voted without a quorum?

Even though the final 4 candidates seem pretty good, remember that the process is important! The process IS important.

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In case you might think there is some exception to the sunshine act for filling a board position, see below. It is actually funny - the precedent is based on a case exactly like this.

"Under the Sunshine Act, the vote of each agency member must be publicly cast and all roll call votes recorded. 
Members of municipal governing bodies may not vote by secret ballot.  Commonwealth Court ruled a school
board violated the Sunshine Act when it voted to fill a vacancy on the board by secretly marking paper ballots."

Reference:  1. Public Opinion v. Chambersburg Area School District, 654 A.2d 284, Pa.Cmwlth., 1995.

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So how did they decide that having 4 votes would qualify a candidate to go to the interview round? Did Fran Keaveney make this decision? Or did the board "confer" (can't say "meet" 'cause they say they didn't). How were board members votes weighted? Did they get 5 votes, or were points to award to candidates (could give 5 to one and none to another, for example)? Did a "no way!Not HIM! vote" take away points?  Knights who say... NI!  Shouldn't the entire list of applicants names be made public, so we know who those "amazing" candidates are in order to petition them to run next election?  While an election would preserve the anonymity of the voter, the vote totals of candidates are made public. Shouldn't that info be available to us as well?

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Call me naive, but I'm confused by why school board directors would want their votes to be anonymous. Why in the world not own up to voting (or "expressing preference") for certain people? 

And just on a technical matter: Are the school directors aware of how the other school directors voted?  How can THEY themselves be assured that this was a fair process?  Who tallied the votes ("preferences")? Who decided where to cut off the top candidates?

Why do citizens and taxpayers have to wonder why a certain person is being appointed to a powerful position?

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But wait there is more - they want more money at LMSD too....

New School Administrators Contract Calls for Merit Pay, 1.2% RaiseThe School Board of Directors approved the deal at their Monday, Oct. 18 meeting.
By Nathan Susanj

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Nothing remarkable here, folks.  What would have been remarkable would have been if the directors had asked their solicitor to help them create a mechanism that was as open and public as possible.  Isn't this simply one more example of why the next school board election is so important?  It's our school district, and the best way to emphasize that is replace every incumbent at the next election.

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Please let me be very clear that I am not unhappy with the final 4. There are a couple of very intersting candidates there.  I know there are some very active and dedicated people that were left out, but someone had to be cut, and that is NOT my issue. 

We just set a precedent that issues can be printed in the weekly pack, voted on by email, and then the result will be reported at the next meeting (or not).  Does anyone really think this is going to be a one time occurance? Maybe we will do the next redistricting this way?  Just pick your favorite map and phone in your choices.

But what I don't understand is how 8 intelligent people let this happen.  They KNOW that the can't have a quorum that is not public, and they can't take action without a quorum.  Why didn't any of them stand up at the meeting and say  - hey - this isn't right?  Do they not understand that this IS the problem?

I hope some school board members read this because I challenge all the board members (and elected officials everywhere) to have courage. 

When you go along with something illegal you have stopped being part of the solution, and you are now part of the problem.

 

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We just set a precedent that issues can be printed in the weekly pack, voted on by email, and then the result will be reported at the next meeting (or not).  Does anyone really think this is going to be a one time occurance? Maybe we will do the next redistricting this way?  Just pick your favorite map and phone in your choices.

Funny you should say that, because that is exactly what happened during the last redistricting. They had a whole mess of options generated by consultants, and the school board went through them all behind the scenes to decide which options would be "presented" for consideration in public.

And that process itself produced many questionable results, as anyone who has read the Doe case exhibits knows: Plans were discarded because they did not move enough African American out of Ardmore, plans were discarded because particular school board directors had interests in moving or not moving  certain neighborhoods (by the way, did anyone ever figure out what the heck "Susanville" is?)

See , that's what happens when there's no open process. Weird stuff happens for no reason apparent to the public.

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It is, unfortunately, all too easy to imagine a scenario in which the solicitor was asked to come up with a selection method that would be as opaque as possible while not crossing over the line into illegality.  Wouldn't it have been nice if the converse were true, i.e., to develop a mechanism that is as open and transparent as possible so that residents and taxpayers feel included rather than excluded?

Is there anything that can be done to convince the board of the need for a do-over?  Perhaps someone can put in a formal request to see all the records of the individual directors regarding the winnowing process.  I believe those would be considered to be public records, even if they're on home computer or e-mail systems.

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mo7777777 - You are being very reasonable. But I don't like how they arrived here - I don't know enough about the law other then to feel they continually do not embrace the spirit of it, which is as important as following it. Someone wrote to me today:

So there was a LMSD meeting last night to fill the vacant board position and that McGinley requested a sense of the Board by email on the candidates? And there was more than one candidate? Correct?

The law is murky on electronic communication where a quorum is not actually simultaneously communicating with one another, i.e. a conference call. However, the law is very clear that an executive session exception relating to employment cannot be used to fill a vacant elected position: Sec. 8 (a) (1) states "the provisions of this section shall not apply to any meeting involving the appointment or selection of any person to fill a vacancy in any elected office."

I assume interviews were done in public. I assume a vote was taken in a public meeting last night. I'm not sure why a "sense of the Board" email was needed. Nothing in the Sunshine Act prohibits any individual Board member from INDIVIDUALLY arguing his preference with a fellow board member.

The best I can say is that I hope the Board was pressed by the public to individually articulate their choice and the reason for the choice.

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Carla,

It looks like you might be on to a more educated opinion than mine.  The problem is the board didn't "request[ed] a sense of the Board by email on the candidates" they actually voted online for five.  The top five vote getters did not get an interview.  The vote getters with more than 4 votes got an interview. (aside:  there seems to be something controversial about the 5th candidate - I get the impression there was a clear 5th place winner, but they didn't get 4 votes.)

Their votes were so secret they were kept secret from each other too. 

The bottom line is that they took action, and decided to eliminate 27 candidates.  Either they DID have a quorum to hold the vote - which means it should have been public, or they DID NOT have a quorum, in which case no action took place.

I hope your friend will weigh in again.

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I'm wondering what relationships and connections exist amongst the select four and eight Directors who gave them four votes. It's a small world after all. Very cliqueish.

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Main Line Media News article by Richard Ilgentritz names the four school board candidates, as already were posted in this thread: "Lisa Hoffstein of Merion, Frances McCombs of Bala Cynwyd, Virginia Pollard of Ardmore and Rick Rasansky of Penn Valley."

Lower Merion school officials have narrowed the 31 potential school board candidates to four names who will be interviewed at a special board meeting next Monday night.

The list of candidates include Lisa Hoffstein of Merion, Frances McCombs of Bala Cynwyd, Virginia Pollard of Ardmore and Rick Rasansky of Penn Valley.

Board President David Ebby said 31 people submitted their names and qualifications to fill the open position and the remaining board members selected their list of five people to be considered.

According to Ebby the four people who will be interviewed all received the highest number of votes from the names submitted.

Observer hasn't seen any information in this SAC thread yet about any of the four, other than Carla's statement: "Virginia Pollard would be the BEST choice and would give South Ardmore a voice, but shall we start the odds on who they will pick?"

What's known about them?  

Frances McComb was mentioned in a SAC thread started by outtathere back in April about the webcam case, Comprehensive View of Spycamgate : Philadelphia Daily News Article 4/28/10.

Frances and her husband, David, were among the three intervenor families in the LMSD webcam case, according to information at the lmsdparents.org website.  Both Frances and her husband are lawyers. 

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We now know the principals intentionally spied in the bedrooms of suspected troublemakers via webcams and that LMSD flagrantly lied in its "independent" BS report about this.

McComb has blindly supported LMSD on this issue on the "Reasonable Parents" Facebook group, and from that standpoint I will have a LOT of say in school board meetings if she is appointed by the board.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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Links to the applications of the four finalists are available here.

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outtathere's picture
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Is there anything that can be done to convince the board of the need for a do-over?

The only hope of that happening that I can see is for you and other like-minded voters to attend meetings and announce that if they do not clean up their respective acts, they will be "OUTTATHERE" come their next election. It will of course take massive numbers of you given the core of voters who are either politically partisan or "Rah. Rah. Rah. My District is the greatest no matter what they do". If you do muster sufficient numbers that they feel their longevity may actually be threatened, then MAYBE they might respond with a turnabout in attitudes. Then again, MAYBE NOT, and that is equally likely.

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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.":Gil Scott-Heron 1970 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGaRtqrlGy8

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The SB tally sheet is posted on openlmn.net

 

 

 

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xf14ae's picture
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Here's the posting from OPENLMN.NET that has the 'tally' sheet.

I would peg Francie McCombs as the Bruce Reed Endorsed Candidate.  

Should LMSD really be serious about educational issues amongst our minority populations, Rev. Dr. Pollard brings both educational experience and viewpoints that  no other candidate has.   Ms. Hoffman and Mr. Risansky also bring different experience. 

What I like is that three of the four candidates aren't lawyers - we have too many of those to begin with.  Two have serious track records working with at-risk youth, from different angles. One brings a more businesslike viewpoint.

What I don't like is this 'secret balloting' by our elected representatives and this amazing ability to make a decision about who will represent the citizens of the District without any quorum or public action.  That just does not sit well with me. 

4.8
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"I hope it will be said we taught them to stand tall & proud, even in the face of history & the future was made new & whole for us all, one child at a time." - Brian Andreas

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Could someone with a better facility for scribd please re-post the 4 resumes of the candidates, so we can view them here?

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xf14ae's picture
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What I like about Mr. Rasansky is that he knows tech, and God knows we need someone on the Board who knows tech.

Ms. Hoffman seems to be all about engagement of students.  Also nice.

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"I hope it will be said we taught them to stand tall & proud, even in the face of history & the future was made new & whole for us all, one child at a time." - Brian Andreas

mo7777777's picture
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Ugh.  The Patch just wrote again about this story.  While I am happy for the coverage, they dug up a legal case that is related to a personnel matter, not replacing a SB member.  Personnel matters are exceptions to the sunshine act and the case in question took place at executive session.  It is not really relevant to this case at all.

 

 

Did anyone else notice thatsome people did not vote for 5 candidates?  There are only 35 votes, not 40.

 

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valleygirl's picture
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MLT has a story with a different tally sheet. It also adds to 35 and has all 30 (not 31) names. 

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LexoTime5's picture
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MLT has a story with a different tally sheet. It also adds to 35 and has all 30 (not 31) names.

 

That is 31 names, they just have #31 listed out of order.

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