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

Opinion: Orange BOE Controversy Continues — Letter # 1

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Jan 152013

In December, Orange Live reported on a “Disturbance in the Force” at the Orange Board of Education Meeting, describing the events as “embarrassing” when former vice chairman Keith Marquis took over the public session portion of the meeting and called for a new vote for board officers which, in the absence of Chairman Jeanne Consiglio ultimately led to him being elected as Chairman.

He claimed the November officers’ vote was held illegally, and insisted that his procedure for the new election was legal, yet, in spite of protests from other board members asking for the vote to be tabled until the January meeting, Marquis, as chairman, said no, and stressed that no legal advice was necessary. He instructed Supt. Lynn McMullin not to pursue legal advice on the matter.

What Orange Live readers have said is that all of this sounded hinky. If the November board election was illegal then why not seek legal advice to see if Marquis’ claim was true? If the December election was Legal, but not accepted by the entire board and surrounded by so many questions, then why not seek legal advice? Unless the new chairman is afraid his actions will be reversed.

When she returned from vacation in December, Jeanne Consiglio formally resigned from the board, which she had dedicated many years to and, as chairman, had turned around so it was a “kinder, more civil board” than it had been in a long time.

On Monday night, Jan. 14, board member Susan Falvey, who had been quite vocal during the December meeting, resigned her seat as well.

Board members Falvey, Jody Dietch (Who had been elected vice chairman in November – but lost the officers’ seat in the questionable December election) and Amy Criscuolo each read letters to the board regarding the election situation.

Here is Amy Criscuolo’s letter so the community can see for themselves how this board member feels.

I suggest you watch the meeting on OGAT when it airs. The letters were presented within the first 10 minutes of the meeting.

  • From Amy Criscuolo

Over the past 3 years that I have served as a board member on the Orange Board of Education, I can honestly say that as board members we have successfully been able to agree to disagree on certain subjects without division among members or our party affiliations.

However I would be lying if I said that what occurred at the December 3rd OBOE meeting has not damaged the relationships of the board members and caused the resignation of a devoted board member, Jeanne Consiglio.

Upon leaving the December OBOE meeting I was bewildered and disturbed by the actions, demeanors and outcome of the meeting.  How could the newly elected officers of the previous month be ousted from their positions, when there is clear precedent to allow the OBOE officer elections to be held on another day other than the one stated in the bylaws.  Furthermore there was ample notice of the meeting date and there were no objections at the time of the November meeting.  The vote was held, the results announced and again there was no objection at the time of the vote, therefore the votes were official at the November meeting and could not be challenged, especially at a subsequent meeting.

At the December meeting, when Keith called a Point of Order stating the November elections were improper, I would be remiss if I said I knew exactly what Point of Order meant.  I contacted several local parliamentarians and Dr. Leonard Young, Executive Director and Parliamentarian of the National Association of Parliamentarians and he directed me to the Robert’s Rules of Order Manual which explains that a Point of Order has to be raised promptly at the time the breech occurs.  So now I question was there abuse of parliamentary law to steal the offices of those that were legally elected?

Based on the definition of when a Point of Order is to be used, the way that Keith called the Point of Order last month was out of order and therefore shadows doubt on the validity of the outcome of the December elections.   At the December 3rd OBOE meeting I asked for a legal opinion and was denied. On December 11th, Jeanne, Jody, Sue and myself emailed Keith requesting that the board seek legal opinion on the legalities of the November and December meetings and again our request was denied. At this point, I can’t help but be concerned about the legal makeup of the OBOE officers.

I am AGAIN requesting for the third time a legal opinion for clarification of the legalities of the November and December OBOE meetings and in addition I am requesting an opinion from a Robert’s Rules of Order Parliamentarian to clarify Keith’s use of a Point of Order at the December 3rd 2012 OBOE meeting.

Keith as Chair, I am respectfully asking you to end the controversy and extend the courtesy to the members that are requesting opinions so we can move forward and work as a united board and achieve what we are here to do, serve our children and our community.

Respectfully submitted,

Amy Criscuolo

OBOE Board Member