SB Members: Some More Equal Than Others – with addendum

In the debate on whether or not the school district should have held  public hearings on the receipt of $1.2 million in insurance premium refunds,  school board member, Peter Bealo, referred to a lawyer’s letter with a legal opinion on the subject. (See the “Comments” section of my previous blog posting.)  Since I am a member of the school board, on Monday I  asked the board chairman, Nancy Steenson, to make this letter available to me.  She told me that I can view the letter at the SAU office next week and no sooner because the superintendent and his administrative assistant are on vacation this week.

My reply:  not good enough.  I want to see it Wednesday.  If other members of the board have seen this letter there is no reason for me not to have the same information  without delay. All board members are equal in authority. Here is the issue.  The chair and vice chair can receive copies of  lawyer letters.  The rest of the board may not – or so I am told, though I have never seen this policy in writing.  On one other occasion when I wished to read a lawyer’s letter, I had to go into the SAU office, sit with an SAU staff member and read the letter while being supervised to ensure I made no notes, copies or photos of the document.  I don’t know if any other school board member ever had to suffer this indignity nor do I know how long this policy has been established, but now I know the chairman and vice chair are not subject to this rule.  They are evidently trusted to keep letters confidential while I am not.

The school board chairman is claiming that personnel is an issue this week.  This means I will have to wait to be babysat.  I am 5’4″, approaching 60 years old and a fast reader.  I don’t exactly require a bouncer.  Anyone can babysit me and SAU staff can easily obtain another copy of the letter from the lawyer if finding this letter is a problem  while Ms. Belcher is away. Given that taxpayers are paying for letters of opinion, why are their elected officials subject to a “read only” policy concerning them? Why on earth are elected officials submitting to a “read only” policy that really means “read only when we feel like showing it to you,” if that’s what it means.  Or maybe it’s just me.

ADDENDUM:  In an earlier version of this blog I described Peter Bealo as the SB Vice Chair. That was incorrect.  He is the Vice Chair of the SAU board.  Forgive my brain cramp…. however, this means that Mr. Bealo – an ordinary member of the board such as myself – knew about the existence of a lawyer’s letter on an issue that I raised at a school board meeting, yet I was not told about this letter.  Not only did Mr. Bealo know about this letter, he had read it while I didn’t even know it existed until Mr. Bealo spilled the beans in arguing on my blog’s comments section.  You’re just not cool unless you’re excluding other people from the party.

Mr. Bealo, did you go to the SAU office to be babysat while reading the letter?

UPDATE July 7, 2014:  SB chairman, Nancy Steenson, emailed me today saying I will be permitted to view the lawyer’s letter once Dr. Metzler has had a chance to “review” the letter  as he has been out of the office.  Did it change since June 28th (when I first learned about it)? Pinocchio Academy is expanding.  If you read Mr. Bealo’s  comments on my blog posting about the failure of the district to hold a legally required public meeting, he says I would have been able to obtain this letter from Dr. Metzler had I only asked.  Of course, Bealo really meant, “had I known to ask,” because  knowledge of this letter was kept from me and so it continues.  I am contemplating seeking a court order.

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4 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues, School Board Behavior, The Mushroom Farm

4 responses to “SB Members: Some More Equal Than Others – with addendum

  1. Cathy Gorman

    In my opinion, if the School Board and SAU need a legal opinion because they are not able to comprehend a RSA (198:20-b and 31:98 (I believe) in this case) then I feel it is subject to public scrutiny and NOT just the SB and SAU.
    It would be in the School Board, our employees at the SAU and Legal to “educate” those that pay their salaries and benefits.
    Based on a legal “opinion” regarding how this lawyer is “interpreting” the RSA which is, rather than notifying the taxpayer of the refund minimally 7days in advance of holding a public meeting to discuss the acceptance and how to use that REFUND, this lawyer has (i have to assume) said “I say the RSA says NONE of that. The SAU can accept the overpayment of minimally $880,000.00 and not tell the taxpayer, very definitively, they over paid AND that the refund is the taxpayers money and not a part of the 2013-2014 budget and therefore not a part of “surplus” from the 2013-2014 budget.

    Was the SAU misinforming the taxpayer when they said we were on target for a 1.9M surplus from the 2013-2014 budget? Similar to every previous year? Or are they including a REFUND (not to be confused with state “funding”) in that figure. If it”s the latter it would mean the “surplus” from the 2013-14 budget is only 1M and thanks to the taxpayer over paying for benefits in previous years the SAU can cushion the blow of the ~1M shortfall.

    Just my opinion

    Cathy Gorman

    • The SAU can accept the overpayment of minimally $880,000.00 and not tell the taxpayer, very definitively, they over paid AND that the refund is the taxpayers money and not a part of the 2013-2014 budget and therefore not a part of “surplus” from the 2013-2014 budget.

      Cathy, I’m a little confused by this sentence. Could you break down the thoughts in this sentence into separate sentences so I can respond? Thanks for your support and digging into this issue.

      • Cathy Gorman

        1) The SAU via the SB can accept a “refund” (overpayment and unanticipated funds) without notifying the public and document these funds along with their origin in public minutes as required by law.
        That is what I must assume was the “legal opinion”. I also would question anyone’s qualification to serve on the SB if they thought the RSA is not clear.
        2) this “refund” was not paid (via taxes) during the 2013-14 budget and therefore is not a part of the 2013-14 “budget” surplus -it is a refund “on top of” a budget surplus.
        3) Therefore I do not feel it should be lumped into the projected 1.9M 2013-14 “budget” surplus

        Apparently based on what the Finance Manager stated at the last SB meeting: The surplus to the district this year is on target to be 1.9M – (my math not the FM): 1M from the 2013-14 budget and (plus) the taxpayer refund (overpayment in employee benefits) of ~0.9M

        Is that accurate? Is the surplus 1M short of previous years with the district continuously increasing the budget in light of chronic lagging enrollment?

        The budget either has a 1.9M surplus OR a 1M surplus PLUS an $880,000.00 taxpayer refund. The SAU and SB needs to be transparent … IMO

      • The surplus is $1 million plus the LGC refund of $885,000. I don’t know what the lawyer’s letter says but if Peter Bealo’s arguments are anything to go by, the letter will argue that the district can accept the funds without a public hearing so long as they don’t expend them. Returning them to the taxpayer via the surplus is not an expenditure. My point is that the refund exactly displaced an equal amount of money previously earmarked for surplus, which is what you are getting at, too.

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