New Hartford School Board meetings always start at 7:00 p.m., but last night’s meeting started with an Executive Session at 6:00 p.m. However, no notice was given to the public of the change in time. In fact, the Observer Dispatch meeting listings since Sunday has listed the start of the meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Mr. Flemma questioned Mr. Nole regarding proper public notice of the time change and Mr. Nole stated that the newspaper was informed and he has no control over what they choose to print. However, Mr. Nole was unable to say just when the newspaper was given the information because he said he is not the person who contacts them.
Nice try blaming the Observer Dispatch Superintendent Nole; however, perhaps you should sweep your own doorstep first.
As of yesterday, the day of the meeting, the Home page of the New Hartford Central School website listed the meeting start time as 7:00 p.m., and so did the school calendar that is found on their website so we are finding it difficult to “buy into your story".
Mr. Nole said that the agenda listed the start time as 6:00 p.m.; however how many people who are looking for the start time would go any further than the Home page of the school's website?
There was also some confusion as to whether this was a Special Board meeting or just a regular board meeting that convened earlier than usual. Whichever it was, we managed to get the word and made plans to be there prior to the start of the 6:00 p.m. meeting.
Before the meeting started, Mr. Nole tried to convince us that we didn’t need to be there because they were going directly to executive session that would probably last about an hour, but we decided to stay anyway. He did offer to let us take a couple of chairs out into the hall to sit on.
The Open Meetings Law clearly states if a meeting is scheduled less than a week an advance, notice of the time and place must be given to the news media and posted in the same manner as described above, "to the extent practicable", at a reasonable time prior to the meeting. The original meeting was noticed in a timely manner; however, the school board members were given notice of the change in start time 5 days prior to May 27th; the school failed to notify the public of the change on their website and it is doubtful that they contacted the news media.
The Open Meetings Law also states that a public meeting must be convened before a public body can enter into executive session. Therefore, even though Bob seemed agitated that we were there videotaping, we stayed with our camera rolling.
As soon as the board president opened the meeting, it was suggested that they go into executive session. As is necessary for compliance with the Open Meetings Law, Nole gave the following reason: “to discuss the employment history of a particular person regarding ongoing litigation.” Actually, under the law, the school is supposed to identify the litigants so the public is able to ascertain that they really had a valid reason to hold an executive session. So we guess we will just have to assume that the litigants were the school and an employee of the school.
After the motion was made and seconded, Mr. Flemma asked for discussion. You can hear his objections on the videotape below.
After the final vote was taken for an executive session, Mr. Nole walked up to us and in a rather frustrated tone asked us to leave. He said they would be meeting in the District Conference Room, a small room at the back of the library and he wanted us out in the hall to make sure that we couldn’t hear anything.
We mention this because of all the school board meetings we have videotaped, the board has never convened an executive session in the District Conference room; executive sessions are always held right in the library while we wait in the hall outside the library.
That leaves us to wonder just what was so top secret that Nole was afraid we might overhear? Why did they move up the time of the meeting to 6:00 p.m. instead of 7:00 p.m. just five (5) days before the regularly scheduled meeting without notifying the public of the change in time? Why was Nole visibly upset that we were in attendance?
At 7:00 p.m., the board began the normally scheduled meeting which lasted approximately 35 minutes. During that meeting the board passed a resolution to accept the agreement presented in executive session. They then voted to enter into a second executive session followed by board training.