Letter to the editor

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GM board acted correctly

In the Dec. 31 Southeast Messenger, letter writer Marcus Beaumont criticized the Groveport Madison Board of Education for canceling a meeting, having a closed session, and not allowing Mr. Steven Slyh to take his seat on the Board.  

Mr. Beaumont said he spoke with Dr. Sealey and felt her explanation was not sufficient. My job required me to work with the Open Meeting Act/Sunshine Law for several years and I might be able to explain it so Mr. Beaumont can better understand it.

When the legislature wrote the Open Meetings Act, it wisely made provisions for executive (closed) sessions in order for a public organization to discuss matters that should never be discussed publicly. For example, if the board needs to discuss a personnel matter, it would adjourn to executive session. I would not want my personnel problems discussed in a public meeting and do not believe anybody else would. If the public entity did so, I believe they’d be inviting a lawsuit. Keep in mind, the terms under which a board can adjourn to executive session are very specific and those terms must be followed to the letter of the law. Additionally, no official business can be conducted in an executive session.

I have been involved with bringing new members into a governing body many times and have found that a short orientation meeting is sufficient for a member to be brought up to speed about anything discussed in a previous executive session. Missing one executive session will not make or break a new member. If it does, that person has no business on a school board or any other board.  

Mr. Beaumont also questioned the Board’s decision that Mr. Slyh should not take a seat on the Board before the first of the year and to cancel the December meeting. It is my understanding that a new employee of the Board of Elections mistakenly told Mr. Slyh that he could take his seat on the Board before the first of the year; however, that person’s supervisor and the Secretary of State agreed that was incorrect and Mr. Slyh should not be seated before the first of the year. Mr. Beaumont claims this is suspicious, but it appears to me to be nothing more than an honest mistake on the part of the Board of Elections.

If the Groveport Madison Board of Education had allowed Mr. Slyh to take his seat and had conducted official business at that meeting, would they risk all business being ruled invalid? I believe they would. Mr. Slyh put the Board of Education in a position that doing nothing during December was the best option, and that is shameful.

As for the party, Mr. Beaumont, do not nitpick. I have found most board members of any organization would be working for pennies on the hour if all their time were counted. Rewarding them with a snack, a glass of punch, and a few words of appreciation is a small price to pay.

Charlotte Barker
Groveport

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