Petty calls executive session illegal, claims superintendent screamed profanities at him
By ANANDA coleman
• Leader & Times
People who came to see Monday night’s USD No. 480 School Board meeting at 7, ended up watching a basketball game instead.
An executive session called by Superintendent Lance Stout right after the approval of the agenda left citizens perplexed — and sounds from that behind-doors session were loud but muffled.
According to school board president Reid Petty, Stout’s request for an executive session – supposedly to deal with a “non-elected personnel issues” was inappropriate.
“Before the meeting began, the superintendent requested that we have a short 10-minute executive session to discuss non-elected personnel right after the agenda was passed,” Petty explained. “I thought something must have happened at the last minute in regards to the school day with one of the district’s employees, so I granted the superintendent his request.
“However, the moment the board stepped foot behind closed doors, he began to yell and scream profanities at me,” Petty said.
The superintendent expressed anger that Petty had encouraged members of the public to contact other school board members to vote “No” on the proposed new administrative jobs that would raise taxes.
Meanwhile, in the meeting room, “They turned the TV over to a basketball game,” Liberal resident and school board candidate Steve Helm said. Helm was in attendence at the meeting.
“The TV screen they use to show the agenda had some college basketball game on it; (It was loud enough that) I couldn’t hear what was going on,” he added.
A short time later, Petty added to the confusion when he returned to the conference room and sat alone at the table. The other six board members remained in session until about 7:20 p.m.
“I was totally embarrassed at that meeting – we weren’t acting as a board, as adults,” fellow board member Tammy Sutherland-Abbott said afterward. “There was too much talking down to others, too much display of emotion. Everybody should respect each other enough to value one another’s opinion – even if they don’t agree.
“We would not allow our students to act like that in a classroom, so I think it was horrible for anyone to act that way in a professional meeting,” she added.
The executive session didn’t just raise questions of simple courtesy; its legality was also disputed.
“I chose to exit and not participate in what was a clear violation (of Kansas law) and an illegal executive session,” Petty commented afterward.
When asked later for comment on the matter, Stout said, “Executive session dealt with a personnel matter, and we don’'t discuss personnel matters.”
The Kansas Open Meetings Act prohibits boards with elected officials from conducting business in private meetings. There are exceptions for issues connected to non-elected employees, but Petty was concerned that debate about his actions did not fall into this category.
“Had the discussion taken place in open session – like it should have – I would have stated that I have every right as a board member to encourage public input on a public vote that directly impacts the taxpayers of Liberal,” Petty said. “I promised transparency to voters two years ago when I was elected, and I will continue to provide it.
“A new election is less than a month away, which will bring many new changes to the USD 480 Board,” Petty continued. “I look forward to being part of repealing several votes that have taken place over the last two years, many of which I plan to add to the agenda for a vote in the first meeting of the new board in July.”
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