Public comment may be put back in minutes

Sunday Times Newspapers


WYANDOTTE — Names and comments from visitors at Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education meetings may be put back into the minutes by the next meeting.


Since October the names, addresses and comments of visitors at board meetings have been absent from the meeting minutes.


Ever since, Secretary Michael Peters has voted against approving the minutes of previous meetings.
Since then Trustees Kathy Bedikian and Michael Swiecki have joined his cause to include visitor comments and names.


However, not until Tuesday’s meeting have minutes from a previous meeting not been approved.


The approval failed by a 3-2 vote, President Kirby and Trustee Jerry Kupser were absent from the meeting.


Treasurer Dana Browning and Swiecki voted to approve the minutes, while Bedikian, Peters and Vice President Kevin Van Boxell voted against them.


Swiecki said he agrees with Peters that names and comments should be in the minutes, but decided to vote for approval because they were legally sound.


Van Boxell, who normally votes to approve the minutes, voted against them because a situation from the last meeting was not reflected in the minutes.


During the March 17 meeting Van Boxell voted to approve Personnel and Policy Director Jane Allman’s contract. He later said he was mistaken and wanted to vote no.


While his original vote still counted, he wanted the fact that it was a mistake to be reflected in the minutes, it wasn’t. Even though the minutes were not approved, the motion to approve them did not fail, but no action was taken on them.


Until those minutes are approved, however, no actions taken by the board members during the meeting will become official. That includes the transfer of all sixth-graders to Wilson Middle School in the fall.


Peters said he will continue to vote against the minutes until visitor comments and names are reinstated.


“We’ve been going through this for several months now,” he said. “If we’re suppressing the petition of visitors, then I am not supporting the minutes.


“You don’t suppress information from public records.”


Peters has not brought the issue up at length before because of the three- to four-hour meetings the board has been having recently.


“I kind of put it on the back burner, holding off on it,” he said. “So now is as good a time as any to get it out there.”


The minutes, taken by Christine Hensley, secretary to Supt.Patricia Cole, are accurate in Peters’ opinion; he just wants them to reflect the tone of the meeting.


“It’s just common sense that when someone speaks at a meeting, you write down who spoke and what they said,” Peters said. “Asking people to state their name and address for the record, and then not including it, that just doesn’t make any sense at all.


“I really feel it is happening because people didn’t like what they were hearing (from the public), so they wanted to suppress it from the minutes.


“Until anybody can give me a better explanation, I’m standing by my theory.”


Swiecki brought up Kirby’s argument that if what a person said is summarized, their point may be lost in translation.


“I don’t think that argument holds up, because (Hensley) takes very good notes and they are accurate,” Peters said.


Bedikian said public petitions, when they were included in the past, were always “accurate and unbiased,” adding that they sometimes served as useful information.


Because of that, she said, she continues to vote with Peters on not approving the minutes that don’t include resident comments.


“It seems much ado about something that really isn’t that harmful,” Bedikian said.


Residents also have taken issue over the deletion of their comments and names over the last few months.
“I think that if we come up here and state our names, they should be put in the record,” said Dave Shalda. “I think if we request them in to be there, they should be put in.”


Including the public petition portion in the minutes will be discussed by the policy committee during their meeting April 20.


Browning said members will work on getting them back into the minutes by the next board meeting April 28.


The unapproved March 17 minutes also will be revisited then.