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Video of school board meeting still hasn't aired

Attorney says legal action possible over member's comments about candidate

Attorney says legal action possible over member's comments about candidate

January 09, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - One month after a Washington County Board of Education member made comments about a school board candidate that the candidate's attorney described as potentially "slanderous," a videotape of that meeting has not been televised.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to postpone approval of the minutes from the Dec. 11 business meeting. By not approving those records, they are unavailable to the public. The board member's comments were not said to be the reason for not approving the records.

An attorney representing Jacqueline B. Fischer, a candidate for the board, asked that the tape not be broadcast. The attorney claimed that comments made by Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner could open Wagner, and possibly Washington County Public Schools, to a lawsuit.

Board meetings typically air on Antietam Cable's channel 99.

During the December meeting, Wagner said a candidate who has a contract with the board is subject to the board's authority, and she questioned whether that was a violation of board policy. She sought a legal opinion at that time on whether that candidate should step down from the race or leave the position. She did not name Fischer in her remarks.

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Fischer resigned from her contracted position as a proofreader for Washington County Public Schools and from her volunteer role as a member of the facilities and enrollment advisory committee shortly after Wagner made her comments.

School system spokesman Will Kauffman said the meeting has not been broadcast, but he declined to offer other details about the incident.

"Because this is a legal matter that could result in litigation, it is best that we don't comment on specifics at this time," he said.

Fischer's attorney wrote in a Dec. 18 letter to Wagner that litigation against her could ensue shortly.

Wagner said Tuesday that she would not vote to approve the Dec. 11 business meeting records because they did not accurately reflect discussions that took place that day. She mentioned several areas that she said were inaccurate, areas that did not include her comments made about a board candidate.

Wagner also was the only board member to vote against approving a record of a Dec. 20 executive session meeting, again saying the minutes were not accurate.

Board Vice President Donna Brightman recommended Tuesday that the board's ethics advisory panel reconvene. She said it has been inactive.

The board decided to discuss that possibility at a future meeting.

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