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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

More on Tuesday BOE meeting, including Rutherford 'recusal'

Was Rutherford's recusal cuckoo or did he really have a conflict?

There were three more matters of interest from the Plainfield Board of Education's Tuesday meeting besides the transfer of former Superintendent of Schools Anna Belin-Pyles to her former position.

The first was Board president Emily Morgan's decision to begin the meeting by taking action on the Belin-Pyles matter and a walk-on resolution that appointed Dr. Sheard the Acting Superintendent

It is the presiding officer's prerogative to take up agenda items in the order the chair wishes. What happened, though, by taking the resolutions first and out of order was to technically deprive the public from an opportunity to comment or ask questions before the vote was taken.

When challenged on the point by audience member David Graves, Morgan let him speak even though she did not formally yield the floor. This opened the door for another audience member to ask a question, which Morgan answered.

Not much of a kerfuffle, but definitely an unusual move.

The second was BOE member David Rutherford's decision to recuse himself on both resolutions.

The usual procedure is to vote with or against a motion, or to abstain. (There is another maneuver -- "present, not voting" -- which is used in Congressional votes primarily to establish that a quorum is present (see more here).

To recuse oneself is done when a person either has a conflict of interest over the matter (or person) at hand, or is believed to be unable to act impartially.

In either event, I have never seen the recusal statement made during the voting itself. Normally, the person who wishes to recuse themself addresses the presiding officer before discussion or deliberations begin, advising that they are recusing themselves and will participate in neither the deliberations nor the vote.

Maybe we should just chalk it up as another "Weird NJ' story.

Finally, the report on Food Services by BOE member Lynn Anderson was a model of how these reports can be done effectively.

Anderson began with an overview of concerns raised by students and Board members and detailed her meetings with Aramark (the vendor) representatives to address the District's concerns.

It was quite a lengthy report that ended by summarizing the state of affairs from the Board's point of view at the moment.

Two Aramark representatives (a regional manager, and the Plainfield manager) were on hand to answer any other questions the Board or the public had.

Questions got down to the nitty-gritty and both the company representatives and community members seemed satisfied that it was an excellent and fair conversation. In fact, one community member was moved to come to the mike and praise Anderson for the manner in which the report had been handled -- suggesting it should be used as a template for future committee reports.

I'll second that motion.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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