School board reviews superintendent; public comment approved
September 08, 2012 · Jennifer Pandich
Questions were raised as to whether there should be a public comment portion of a special Mount Vernon School Board meeting last week focused on an evaluation of superintendent Pam Ewell her evaluation.
Per Iowa's open meetings law, governments can meet in closed session to evaluate employees. Nothing in the law requires closed meetings.
At the Wednesday, Aug. 29, board meeting, with the closed session as the main agenda item, board president Tom Wieseler opened the meeting indicating there were discrepancies about the posting of the agenda. He said some versions of the agenda posted online did not include a public comment section, and that did not provide equal opportunities for those who might wish to speak. The agenda the Sun received by e-mail included five items: call to order, approval of agenda, public comment, closed session and adjournment.
Wieseler said that because public comment should not be allowed on personnel, but only on issues not associated with a particular person, comments were inappropriate. He then said the public comment portion of the agenda should be removed.
Board member John Cochrane agreed with Wieseler, stating that the comment portion should be stricken.
Board member Darrin Gage disagreed, saying, "I think it's the policy to always allow the public to comment."
Board member Paul Morf said people should be allowed to comment within the rules, "on issues that are not related to personnel."
Board member Mark Weldon made a motion to accept the agenda as it was posted; Gage seconded the motion. A vote was taken, with Wieseler casting the lone "no" vote to accept the agenda.
Wieseler then asked if any of the six people attending the meeting would like to make a comment.
Former longtime board member Dean Borg stood to speak: "I have no public comment. I believe Mr. Wieseler is exactly right on the issue. I appreciate your service, and I show my respect by attending the meeting."
The meeting then went into closed session to conduct the evaluation.
The closed session lasted about 3 1/2 hours - from 7:45 to 11:15 p.m. No action was taken after the closed meeting.
Superintendent Ewell is in the final year of a two-year contract approved by the school board members who served a year ago.