Charles Hebert, Russ Johnson and Scott Rice were appointed to fill three of the four vacated seats on the Manawa School Board.
One position remains open to represent the townships of Royalton and Mukwa as a result of Richard Lowney’s resignation. This position is scheduled to be filled during the August meeting.
Elections for positions within the board and assignment to committees will also take place in August.
Paul Sturm read a statement regarding a recent investigation into the allegations that the board and the Negotiations Committee violated the Open Meeting Law.
“At the July Board of Education meeting, questions were raised about allegations that the Negotiations Committee and potentially the Board of Education itself may have violated the Open Meetings Law on June 2, 2014, during the course of negotiations with the Manawa Education Association,” said Sturm.
“The Board of Education investigated the allegations, as has the city of Manawa Police Department, in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Justice and Waupaca County District Attorney,” he said. “Based upon its investigation as well as the advice of the district’s legal counsel, the Board of Education states that no members or recent former members of either the Negotiations Committee or the Board of Education itself violated the Open Meetings Law.”
Sturm specifically mentioned Section 19.82(1), Wisconsin Statutes, which defines a governmental body for purposes of the open meetings law. The section specifically excludes any such body or committee or subunit that is formed for or meeting for the purpose of collective bargaining.
“The Negotiations Committee was meeting for the purpose of negotiating with the Manawa Education Association and, therefore, did not constitute a governmental body, subject to the open meetings law,” Sturm said. “Even if the Board of Education was deemed to be meeting, they would have been meeting for the purpose of negotiating with the Manawa Education Association and, therefore, would not constitute a governmental body subject to the open meetings law.”
Sturm also noted Section 19.82(2), which defines a meeting for purposes of the Open Meetings Law. That section specifically excludes any social or chance gathering or conference which is not intended to avoid the open meetings law.
“The members of the Negotiations Committee had no prior knowledge that other members of the Board of Education may be in attendance at the meeting of the Negotiations Committee,” said Sturm. “Accordingly, the fact that other members of the Board of Education may have attended the meeting of the Negotiations Committee arguably constitutes a chance gathering which was not intended to avoid the Open Meetings Law. Therefore, did not constitute a meeting of the Board of Education subject to the Open Meetings Law.”
Sturm said there has been no formal finding that the Negotiations Committee or the School Board itself violated the law.
The board routinely provides in-service training to its members concerning the Open Meetings Law.
“Due to the number of new members on the Board of Education, the board has elected to hold another Open Meetings Law in-service in September or October,” said Sturm. “All new board members will be required to participate.”
Exempt from this meeting would be Sturm and Dave Strebe, who previously participated in the similar session.
“The Board of Education, including all committees and sub units of the Board will continue its practice of transparency as well as 100 percent adherence to the Open Meetings Law,” said Strum.
Police chief, district attorney respond to statement
After the board meeting, Manawa Police Chief Dave Walker sent an email to the Waupaca County Post:
“I did a preliminary investigation and did consult with the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office and the Waupaca County District Attorney. At that time in June, we did not make a formal conclusion one way or the other. However, based upon the information at hand, we concluded the appropriate course of action was for the school board to attend an open meeting law (Section 19) training session.”
“That recommendation from the DA was passed on to the school district’s attorney by me to Tony Redding, who at the time agreed to conduct or arrange for the training to be held by September or October this year. In the interim with the resignation of four board members and recruitment of new members, the timing for this recommendation was highly appropriate,” Walker said.
“The statement read at the recent board meeting was not done in consultation with me and was drafted, I presume by the school district attorney Tony Redding,” he said. “Tony did try contacting me last week, most likely to go over the content of the board statement; however I could not be reached, so I have not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with him.”
District Attorney John Snider also emailed a statement regarding questions raised about a possible open meetings violation.
“I agree with Chief Walker’s summary,” Snider said. “I will add that no one consulted with me concerning the statement read at the school board meeting. My office conducted no investigation and no formal conclusions were made one way or another. We opted for the educational resolution. Read carefully, the statement is not putting words in anybody’s mouth but the school board’s. But to the extent that the statement might be read as contending that the actions in question were given ‘a stamp of approval’ by us, it is misleading.”
“I do not know what Mr. Sturm knows about the extent of any investigation by entities other than the school board,” Snider said.
In other business, a mandatory parent/student athlete meeting was held on Wednesday, July 30. Parents/students that were unable to participate are required to view a video of this meeting. DVDs will be made available in the elementary school office.
In an effort to avoid scheduling conflicts for graduation, Dan Wolfgram, middle/high school principal, informed the board that a letter will be sent out to the parents of graduating seniors.
“We are trying to avoid the same situation we had last year,” said Wolfgram. “Parents will be given three options to choose from; Friday, May 22, at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 30, at 10 a.m., or Sunday, May 31, at 1 p.m.”
Letters are expected to be sent out the second week of August.
The next meeting of the Manawa School Board is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18.