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Candidates' names released after inquiries

Following Herald-Mail requests, Waynesboro school board identifies those who sought seat

Following Herald-Mail requests, Waynesboro school board identifies those who sought seat

January 19, 2007|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Waynesboro Area School Board released the names Tuesday of the three candidates who were interviewed to fill the position on the board vacated by state Rep. Todd Rock, who left to begin his tenure in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

James Flower Jr., the school board's solicitor, said Tuesday that Firmadge Crutchfield, Ed Wilson and the Rev. Lee Daywalt were interviewed for the position to which the board appointed Daywalt on Jan. 9.

The Herald-Mail several times requested the names of the other candidates, but several members of the school board refused under the protection of executive session.

Flower said the candidates were interviewed earlier this month by a committee of board President Larry Glenn, Vice President Stanley Barkdoll and Director Leland Lemley, in what the board intended as an open session.

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"The interviews were inadvertently not advertised as intended by school board policy," he said.

In addition to the interviews, Flower said the board spoke about the candidates in executive session during its Jan. 9 meeting.

The next day, he argued that the board was allowed to speak on the subject behind closed doors because it was not deliberating the matter.

The Herald-Mail spoke to an attorney for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association (PNA) and the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) about the procedure for filling a vacancy on a school board and the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.

Emily Leader, deputy chief counsel for the PSBA, said public-school policy must follow the Pennsylvania School Code.

She said the code does not specify a procedure for appointing a person to a school board vacancy, but does require that the procedure complies with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.

Leader, who said she wrote a book on the Sunshine Act, said in general, the act does not allow closed-door discussion when filling a vacancy in an elective office.

Teri Henning, general counsel for the PNA, said discussion and official action by a school board must happen in public unless it meets one of the six exceptions specified in the Sunshine Act.

She said discussing candidates for an elected office has not qualified since the act was amended in 1996 to read that the personnel exception "shall not apply to any meeting involving the appointment or selection of any person to fill a vacancy in any elective office."

Henning said a meeting is considered public under the Sunshine Act when it meets the requirement for public notice. Special meetings - those held in addition to a board's regular schedule of meetings - must be advertised in the newspaper 24 hours in advance as well as posted at the meeting place, she said.

Flower apologized to The Herald-Mail for the lack of public notice of the interviews.

"It is regrettable," he said. "We are sensitized to the issue and assure it will not happen again."

While he apologized for conducting interviews without public notice, Flower maintained that the Jan. 9 discussion was information, not deliberation.

The act defines deliberation as "the discussion of agency business held for the purpose of making a decision."

Henning said that when appointing to an elective office, the law intends for public involvement because the board takes the place of the voting public.

"The board is standing in the public's shoes in this case (appointing to an elective office) and from a policy standpoint, transparency is necessary," she said. "In my opinion, executive information sessions are not supported by the act."

Crutchfield said he was unaware that his interview should have been open to the public, but said, "I would think that the process for filling a position so focused on the community as a school board director would have more exposure to the public."

Wilson declined to comment when reached at his home Wednesday night.

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