The Cleveland County Schools Board of Education has a major problem following the law. From the simple things like running a meeting to more complex and I would say criminal when they conspire to subvert the law for the purposes of covering up embarrassing and often illegal activities. I have often called those who violate the law “crooks.” This article will just point out what the specific law, what the CCS Board did and how it violated the law.
North Carolina Law — General Stature 143-319.9 Public Policy states: For all NC Governmental agencies that “exist solely to conduct the people’s business, it is the public policy of North Carolina that the hearings, deliberations, and actions of these bodies be conducted openly.
There are other related laws (NCGS 143-318.10) that dictate how this public business is to be conducted openly and NCGS 143-318.11 specifically give a very narrow range of public business which may be conducted in Closed Session. NCGS 143-318.11(c) specifies specifically how a public body must procedurally go into closed session with even more limitations when an attorney is involved. These specific laws that were violated by the School Board at their June 11, 2018 will be noted below and how they were violated.
1. First of all, very early in the June 11, 2018 School Board meeting agenda the CCS Board approved the minutes of the May `14, 2018 Business meeting. NC General Statute 143-318.10(e) specifically states that “full and accurate minutes of all official meetings” must be kept. If these minutes, which become legal documents when they are approved, are not full and accurate, then a phony and false legal document has been created.
Besides other items such as the “Personnel Reports” which are voted on without confirmation or discussion, an unethical practice I would refuse to participate in, the particular egregious legal violation noted here is the lack of a minutes entry at the end of the meeting where Board member Danny Blanton requested to speak, tried to speak, and was shut down by the Chairman who adjourned the meeting as he was speaking. And she and the other Board members walked off. This started during the meeting and should have been accurately recorded in the minutes as it happed for the minutes to be fair and accurate in accordance with the law.
However, this incident was not recorded at all in the draft minutes that were presented to the School Board for approval at the June 11, 2018 school board meeting. The minutes were approved with no “Nay” votes. Not even from Danny Blanton. A total violation of the law. The broadcast video of the meeting also was stopped or edited to eliminate the incident. Only my article published May 17, 2018 records this incident in detail. Scroll on back and read it to refresh your memory.
2. Although this one incident may be seen by many, including the District Attorney, as just a minor infraction of the law, by this example and others that follow, there is a pattern of knowing violation of law that clearly indicated covering up is the preferred way the CCS School Board handles problems. They just deny problems exist. The problem is, two or more individuals, knowingly conspiring to violate North Carolina law, is a” conspiracy”-a felony crime.
3. Near end of the June 11. 2018 School Board meeting There was an item on the agenda calling for a “Closed Session” in regard to the Superintendent’s (Dr. Fisher)Evaluation. The Board Member’s “Crib Sheet,” the meeting agenda items broken down item by item with instructions prepared by the Superintendent on what the Board is supposed to do for each item, called for a Closed Session in accordance with NCGS 143-318.11(a)6.
Board member Jeff Jones made the motion to go into closed session for a personnel matter (the Superintendent’s Evaluation) and “to confer with the Boards Attorney.” Mr. Jones’ motion did not specify the NCGS 143-318.11(a)6 as the Crib Sheet called for or any other correct law related to go into closed session regarding conferring with an attorney. This “conferring with an attorney” was totally not on the agenda anywhere and indicated to me that something major was happening. The Motion was approved and I immediately went up to Mr. Jones before he left for the closed session and asked what this “conferring with an attorney” was all about and that NC Law had restrictions on what specifically was allowed under a closed session. Mr. Jones, being relatively new on the school board, was apparently unaware of the requirements that I was asking him about. But remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law.
About that time Superintendent Fisher came over and said the closed session was for a “personnel matter,” the Superintendent’s Evaluation was inferred. But there were problems there too. I was beginning to smell a rat in all this closed session stuff. The Devil is always in the details. The Board Members all left for the room they use for closed sessions.
The violation of the law at this point was still minor infractions of NCGS 143-318-11(c) regarding the proper way governmental agencies have to do to go into closed session. Also, the Superintendent’s Evaluation should only take 15 minutes or so. The Majority of the Board had already decided what to do with that evaluation, but had to do it back in open session. I thought about leaving like everybody else, but decided to stay to see how much or a raise Fisher would be getting. This conferring with an attorney stuff was also a puzzle.
The Closed Session went on and on.