Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Monday, January 25, 2016

Board of Ed fails to fulfill OPRA request on time

Emily Morgan signs her oath of office at the Board of Ed reorg.

On Friday, I was told by a parent that the Plainfield Board of Ed had failed to meet a Thursday deadline for answering an OPRA request concerning the Board's executive session on Tuesday, January 5, 2016.

Not only was the deadline not met, no request was made for an extension or any other reason given for not meeting the request.

As I wrote concerning the reorg (see here), members of the public questioned why new-elected member Emily Morgan was waiting in the auditorium while the Board -- including members John Campbell and Richard Wyatt, who had also been elected in November -- was meeting in Executive Session.

When I asked in the open meeting why Mrs. Morgan had been excluded, board attorney Lisa Fittipaldi said that Morgan was not eligible to attend as she had not yet been sworn in, and besides, the meeting was unimportant, dealing only with "housekeeping" matters.

The parent who made the OPRA request wants proof that a legal executive session was held and wants the documents to prove it.

Here's the way things should go down, if done legally (see the Digital Media Law Project's rundown here) --

Example of a properly noticed Executive Session.
  • A public meeting is properly noticed
  • A resolution is adopted by the body at that public meeting to go into closed session
  • The topics to be discussed must be listed (there are only nine possibilities)
  • The body must come back into open session at the end of the executive session to continue and/or end the (public) meeting.
The parent asked for --

  • The legal notice
  • The meeting agenda
  • The resolution to go into executive session
These should be easy enough to supply in a timely fashion if the meeting was conducted in accordance with the Sunshine Law.

The only agenda on the Board of Ed website is for the reorg meeting itself; it does not include any reference to an executive session.

The Board of Ed has put itself in a pickle.

If the meeting was legally business of the 2015 school board, where is the proof that it was called and conducted in accordance with the law?

What was the "housekeeping" business? "Housekeeping" is not an eligible categroy for an executive session discussion. Where is the agenda outling the legitimate items to be discussed?

If the executive session touched on any 2016 Board of Ed business (election of officers, committee assignments or other reorg matters), then the public is owed an explanation as to why Mrs. Morgan was excluded.

The Board should clean this matter up to everyone's satisfaction immediately.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.