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Pa. school board eyes conduct after flap

June 21, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A flap at a May 30 Waynesboro School Board meeting during which board member Leland H. Lemley threatened a woman in the audience has prompted some members to take a harder look at how their meetings are conducted.

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Suggestions at a meeting Tuesday night ranged from videotaping the sessions to having police present.

Board members voted to police themselves by enforcing existing policies governing their own behavior and restricting public comment.

Meetings are often interrupted by audience members who get into verbal arguments with board members.

A case in point is a May 30 special session in which the board heard a report by a Harrisburg, Pa., consultant it hired to study school space and building renovation needs.

It was there that Lemley yelled at Pat Heefner, a secretary in the senior high school library and member of the facilities study committee that worked with the consultant.

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According to a tape recording of the session available in Schools Superintendent Robert Mesaros' office, Heefner started to ask Lemley why he didn't want to put money into software for the school system.

She never got to finish her question before Lemley began to raise his voice at her, according to the tape.

Lemley yelled at Heefner to shut up or he would "kick (her) in the ass," according to the tape.

When Heefner asked Lemley to apologize, he replied, "An apology you're not going to get. I hate this woman. I hate her. I can't stand her," according to the tape.

A few moments later, according to the tape, Lemley referred to Heefner as "this thing you call a woman."

Heefner, contacted Wednesday, said she was not surprised by Lemley's actions. "I've seen him verbally confront other people so often over the years," she said.

Heefner said she was so shaken by the confrontation that she asked for an escort to her car after the meeting.

Board President Robert J. Ternes tried unsuccessfully to rule Lemley out of order, telling him he could not speak to a member of the public in that manner.

Lemley is then heard on the tape screaming back at Ternes to "get up and do something about it."

They proceeded to yell at each other for a few more moments.

Lemley, before Tuesday's board meeting, declined to comment on whether he thought he crossed the line in his comments to Heefner, with whom he has had previous disagreements.

Board member Anna Bostwick-Foley recommended that police be present at future board meetings to keep order.

"We're talking about bad behavior," she said.

Lawrence Glenn and several other members said the board should videotape its meetings.

But Lemley said that wouldn't matter.

"A videotape won't stop me," he said. "My behavior is not illegal. The police have no right to interfere with School Board meetings. You may not like what I say or how I do it, but you have no authority over me."

Board member Nelson Rock, who often sides with Lemley on issues, said he won't have other board members telling him what to do.

"I wasn't elected to come here and keep my mouth shut," he said.

"The issue here is behavior," Ternes said. "The board has to be responsible for themselves."

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