Board member obviously didn’t do his homework

By Mike Anthony

It’s painfully obvious when elected officials haven’t done their homework before a meeting.

That was apparent at the Nov. 7 meeting of the Mehlville Board of Education. One of the topics discussed by board members was Secretary Rich Franz’s proposal that audio recordings be made of the board’s closed sessions. Franz believes recording the board’s closed sessions would complement the increased transparency and accountability that Eric Knost has brought to the district during his tenure as superintendent.

While most board members seemed to be prepared for the discussion, board member Ron Fedorchak clearly hadn’t done his homework.

He could not attend the board’s retreat in August when this topic was discussed, but apparently didn’t research the issue before making a blanket statement urging the board to reject the proposal.

Fedorchak’s lack of knowledge about the topic manifested itself in statements such as the audio recording of closed sessions would violate “the protections for the school district.”

We’re not sure what that means, since the recordings would be exempt from release, the same as closed-session minutes.

We can’t say we were surprised that the board voted 5-2 against the audio recording of closed sessions, with Franz and board President Mark Stoner in favor.

However, the need to increase transparency and accountability — at least on Fedorchak’s part — became readily apparent at the board’s Nov. 21 meeting when he moved to conduct a discussion of the board’s philosophy on merit pay in closed session.

Fedorchak contended the subject should be discussed in closed session under the Sunshine Law exemption allowing “preparation, including any discussions or work product, on behalf of a public governmental body or its representatives for negotiations with employee groups.”

But Franz countered that the philosophy of merit pay has been discussed by a board-appointed committee for more than a year at meetings open to the public and press.

Board members voted 5-1 to reject Fedorchak’s motion, with only Fedorchak in favor. Even board member Larry Felton, who seconded the motion, voted against it.

We believe a strong case can be made that Fedorchak’s lack of knowledge about the Sunshine Law demonstrates the need for the board to record its closed sessions.