Hot Mic Withstanding, BOE Considers Motion to Censure Board Member for Foul Language

On Thursday night, the BOE held a retreat, which meant that unlike a regular business meeting, there was no public comment.

The first item of business on the agenda was a discussion item titled “For the Good of the Order.”

BOE Chair Peter Bernstein said that per Roberts Rules of Order, 11th edition, the board could have a discussion about the organization.

BOE member Joe Kelly made a motion to censure his fellow board member Peter Sherr for his “foul language” during the Feb 19, 2021 meeting.

Silence from Republicans on BOE Member’s Vulgar Remark Caught on Zoom Hot Mic (Feb 20, 2021)

“Pursuant to board policy 9222, I am moving to censure Peter Sherr for his conduct during the Feb 19, 2021 (meeting) when he was heard using offensive and inappropriate language, uttering disparaging comments about a fellow board member.

Mr. Kelly was interrupted by BOE member Karen Kowalski, who was unmuted when she said, “Yeah, he just went right into it!”

“We can hear you,” Mr. Bernstein said.

“Did somebody interrupt me?” Mr. Kelly asked.

“Censure is warranted as his behavior violates board policy 9271, the code of ethics, especially the provision that board members and superintendents recognize that clear and appropriate communications are key to the successful operation of the school district,” Mr. Kelly continued. “Board members and superintendents will always carry out their respective role with the highest level of professionalism and integrity. Board members and superintendents both recognize that they serve as part of an educational team, with mutual respect, trust and civility and regards for each other’s respective roles and responsibilities.”

“Board members and superintendents practice and promote ethical behavior in the board room as a model for all district employees,” Mr. Kelly added.

BOE member Meghan Olsson seconded the motion.

Ms Kowalski shared a point of order. She said the item had not been noticed.

“There was no description in the agenda item,” she said. “It just says, ‘For good of the order.’ And then for the cover sheet it says on behalf of the board, but there’s no purpose or documents. I’m wondering how this came to be, and why the board was not notified in advance of this meeting of this motion.”

Mr. Bernstein said, “Ms Kowalski, I understand you had a conversation with Mr. Kelly that he notified you that this was coming.”

“I can read the text messages, Peter, back and forth,” Kowalski offered.

“If you would like to make a motion to postpone this until our March business meeting, that’s fine. I’m happy to entertain such a motion,” Bernstein said.

“I’m also wondering whether or not we’ve received any advice from counsel as to the proper process related to this,” Kowalski said.

“Karen, I’m relying on Roberts Rules of Order, which is actually what our policies say. I’m not sure that we absolutely need the advice of counsel on our agenda. We construct our own agendas, per our policies,” Bernstein continued. “If you’d like to make a motion at this point, or if somebody else would like to make a motion to postpone this, we can do that. Would you like to make that motion?”

“Yes,” Kowalski said. “I’ll make a motion to postpone this because, because I think that, one, we’ve gone outside the proper procedure. I think we need to consult our town attorney to the extent he hasn’t been consulted already, or unless the town attorney has spoken on this.”

“We’re going to take your motion to postpone until the March business meeting,” Bernstein said.

Mr. Bernstein seconded the motion.

Ms Kowalski asked whether anyone on the board had received correspondence regarding this agenda item.

“Interestingly, Ms Kowalski, I have received unsolicited correspondence from town counsel. I will advise you we do have a policy about who is supposed to be contacting town counsel. I’d be happy to share that with the board.”

“I didn’t contact town counsel,” Kowalski said.

“You may have contacted somebody else, that’s fine,” Bernstein replied. “I’ve heard from town counsel we are not in alignment whether or not this is the proper order for the motion. As to that, it was unsolicited, not requested from us in any size, shape or form. It’s clearly elucidated in Robert’s Rules of Order. I’m happy to move this to the March business meeting.”

When there was no further discussion, there was a role call vote on whether to postpone.

Bernstein, Stowe, Hirsh, Downey, Kelly, Kowalski, and Olsson voted yes.

Ms. Olsson said, “I don’t see the point of postponing, but I guess, it’s going to be even more public at that point, but, yes.”

Mr. Sherr voted No.

“No, considering I kind of got blindsided by this, I’d like to take this up now,” Sherr said.

The motion to postpone passed 7-1.

The March BOE business meeting is set for March 25th. Unlike Thursday’s retreat, there will be public comment