There was some tension among school board members last week while discussing how board members’ votes are recorded.
Gary Young, board president, explained that the names of dissenting board members have been recorded in the meeting minutes, instead of simply noting the number of votes in favor or against a motion.
Young said the current policy doesn’t require dissenting votes to be recorded and asked for the board’s thoughts on the policy.
Young added that if a board member wants to be recognized for a certain vote, they have the option of calling for a roll call vote.
The current policy states that motions will be recorded in the minutes, including the name of the person seconding any motion and the record of the vote. The number of “yea” and “nay” votes on any question are to be recorded in the minutes unless a roll call vote is required by law.
The policy also states that “voting in open session must be conducted in a manner that allows the public attending the meeting to observe how each person voted and in a manner that allows the board secretary to accurately discern and record the number of persons voting for or against the motion as well as the persons abstaining from the motion.”
Additionally, the board may decide to vote by roll call in open session. When an open public vote is not to be taken by roll call, any member may request that the board be polled on any issue requiring a vote.
Virgil Weideman, board member, said he verified recording dissenting votes back to 2003 and that the practice goes back further than that.
“We publish our minutes and we have people in our community who find out what goes on at a board meeting by reading the minutes,” he said.
If an agenda item is just listed as “passing” with no names, he said, the public is kept in the dark about how each member voted.
“I don’t think there’s anyone here who has any problem with the way they vote,” Weideman said. “If someone wants to compliment or criticize you for the way you voted, they should be able to do that based on reading the minutes.”
Weideman suggested modifying two policies to clarify and correlate with the board’s standard practice.
Ron Sohn, board member, said that he doesn’t care if people know how he votes, but people should understand that once the board votes, members stand behind the vote.
“The people who vote for us have a right to know how we vote on the issues,” Weideman said. “That’s the whole point. It’s the public’s right to know how we vote.”
“I question why,” Sohn said.
“They elected us,” Weideman said.
Weideman suggested adding “any vote in open session that is not unanimous will be recorded in the minutes as with a roll call vote.”
He said people shouldn’t have to remember to ask for a roll call vote when it has been standard practice to record dissenting votes for many years.
“I don’t see a reason to change it now,” Weideman said. “If someone wants to take me to task specifically for how I voted, one way or the other, as a citizen, they should have the right to do that. We are representatives of them.”
Weideman also suggested adding verbiage to specifically state that names be recorded in decisions that are not unanimous.
The board has followed board policy and the state Sunshine Law.
The board decided to review the policies, make changes if needed, and look at it during a later meeting.