BLACKFOOT, March 14, 2019—The Blackfoot School board held a special meeting on Wednesday evening. The board attended a training session for the first two and a half hours. The last 15 minutes included a public forum and a resolution regarding the possible open meeting violation from the February board meeting.
The meeting was standing room only.
The Bingham News wishes to thank Blackfoot High School Principal Roger Thomas for giving up his seat to our reporter.
Attorney Amy White from Anderson, Julian, Hull LLP conducted a lengthy training session for the board on its legal responsibilities. This training was first discussed at the Board’s January meeting. It was originally scheduled for March 28.
Anderson, Julian, and Hull is a law firm out of Boise. They provide school board training and consultation throughout Idaho.
Possible open meeting violation
At the board’s February 21 meeting, Trustee Sonya Harris made a motion that one of the district’s bus companies should reimburse the district just over $13 thousand. That company was awarded but then relinquished six bus routes to the second-lowest bidder. Harris argued that this was a breach of contract since the bus company had originally bid on 10 routes.
The difference in price between the first and second lowest bidder was $13,233 for the six routes.
Since Harris’s motion concerned a matter which was not an official action item, the motion became a potential violation of the Idaho Open Meeting Act (§ 74-204). According to Idaho law, a public agency can only vote on matters which are listed as action items on a legally-published meeting agenda.
“I want to apologize because I made a mistake,” Harris said, “which is why we’re having this meeting.” Harris did not realize that her motion at the February meeting was a possible violation.
Right before the board’s action on the possible violation, board chairman Dewane Wren remarked: “I’m the one who need to apologize for getting us into this situation (by allowing the motion).
White informed the board that the board could “cure” the potential violation through the steps outlined in §74-208 (7)(a through d):
- Complaints that a violation of the Title 74, Chapter 2 has occurred must first be taken to the district.
- The board then has 14 days to cure the possible violation.
The board can either
- void the action which violated the open meeting law,
- or it can determine that no violation happened and that no cure is necessary.
Trustee Carlos Mercado initiated the board action to cure the violation:
“I hereby move pursuant to Section 74-208(7) of the Idaho Code that the Board of Trustees of the Blackfoot School District self-recognize a violation of the Open Meeting Act on the evening of February 21, 2019 regarding such action. Further, as the Board took action on this motion and such motion died for the lack of a second, the Board does not have to revisit this subject matter at this time to properly advance such motion to a conclusion.”
The motion was unanimously passed by the board.
Two people testified in an open forum at the end of the meeting.
Wes Jensen spoke regarding the “letter to the editor” by Sonya Harris published on March 5. In that letter, Harris alleged that three of the board trustees were not elected. Those three were the sole nominees for their positions but no election was held to vote them in.
Jensen pointed out that under Idaho law, sole nominees do not go to ballot but rather, they are declared elected through the provisions of Idaho §33-502B, which reads:
“In any election for trustees, if, after the expiration of the date for filing written nominations for the office of trustee, it appears that only one (1) qualified candidate has been nominated for a position to be filled or if only one (1) candidate has filed a write-in declaration of intent as provided by section 34-1407, Idaho Code, and has provided to the district’s board clerk the signatures of five (5) electors of the candidate’s specific zone, then no election shall be held for that position. The board of trustees or the school district clerk, with the written permission of the board, shall declare such candidate elected as a trustee.”
Kathy Law addressed the trustees after Jensen was done. She read a letter of support for the school board which was posted in its entirety earlier today.
When she was done reading the letter, Law asked all the district employees who supported the letter to stand. Only a handful of people remained seated.