Letter #3: Board of Ed Members Request Legal Counsel

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Jan 162013

Jody Dietch (face blocked by microphone) in a file photo from an earlier BOE meeting

This is a continuation of the controversial Orange Board of Education situation that Orange Live first reported in early December.

Click these links for the Original Story, the January meeting, Amy Criscuolo’s letter, Jeanne Consiglio’s resignation, Sue Falvey’s letter.

Following is the letter Jody Dietch presented at the January 14 Orange Board of Ed meeting:

Let me start by saying that it is with great disappointment that I stand here this evening to make this statement.  I was seated as the acting chair in December because the unanimously re-elected chair was out of town.  I am not an attorney nor a parliamentarian, so the issues that were brought up regarding the validity of our November elections caught me completely unprepared.  That is why I requested any new vote be postponed until this meeting, the January board meeting, by which time we could get consultation from our board attorney to be sure we have elected our officers legally.

As has been the past practice of the Orange Board of Education, we held our board elections in November, as stated in our By Laws, policy 9120.  The issue noted at the December meeting of having newly elected board members able to vote for the Board of Education officers was always resolved by either adjusting the November meeting date or, as was done in 2011, holding a special meeting just for the purpose of electing officers.

Additionally the November election was properly noticed and all were present. Therefore, the meeting was, “valid regardless of it being a Monday or Tuesday” based on the opinion of Attorney Kevin Reynolds.  No Board of Ed members had any issue with the date of the November meeting.

The December election was improper for a few reasons. First the point of order was out of order since a point of order is to be done at the time of the alleged infraction. Second, a 2/3 vote of all members is the way our By Laws read, not members present. Therefore, there was not a 2/3 majority to override the chair’s rulings.

Subsequent to the December meeting, four of us on the Board of Education requested the written opinion of the board attorney to which we were denied access.  On the night of the December meeting, Keith Marquis, the

Decision maker Keith Marquis

unconfirmed acting chair, sent an email to Superintendent Lynn McMullin copying the entire Board stating, in part, “With 2/3rds majority of the Board finding the November election improper and being desirous of holding the election in accordance with Bylaw Section 9121 in December, there is no need to contact Attorney Mills on the issue……The Orange Board of Education will not pay for legal opinions unless authorized. You are not authorized to seek legal counsel on this issue.”

Once again, Amy, Sue and I are asking for Lynn McMullin to be directed to seek a formal written opinion from Attorney Mills, the Board’s legal counsel.  There is clearly legal precedent that upholds the November meeting, and with conflicting By Laws, we need the board attorney to guide us on how to reconcile By Laws in conflict.

Why is this important? For many reasons. One, we are supposed to be an example to the community. The message that is being sent to our community is that if you don’t like the results of an election, just hold another election. Second, without a written legal opinion confirming the validity of our elections, and directing us as to which set of By Laws we should be operating under in regards to the election of officers, there is no clear chair of the Board. This is jeopardizing any business the chair conducts, such as signing a negotiated contract, which could possibly make it null and void if it is found that the person acting as chair was not in fact legally elected.

Board Policy 9325 states, and I quote: “The conduct of meetings shall, to the fullest possible extent, enable members of the Board (1) to consider problems to be solved, weigh evidence related thereto, and make decisions intended to solve the problems….”

I urge you to put the politics aside and do what is right for the integrity of this Board and I urge the public to demand the same

Submitted by

Jody Dietch, Board of Education member