Ridenour wins fourth year as school board president

Fischer is new VP

Board votes in closed session first, then publicly

December 13, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • The Washington County Board of Educaton has chosen Jacqueline B. Fischer, left, as vice president and Wayne D. Ridenour, right, as president during Tuesday's meeting.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Wayne D. Ridenour won a fourth one-year term Tuesday as Washington County Board of Education president by a 5-2 board vote.

Jacqueline B. Fischer was elected vice president by a 6-1 vote.

The votes in public session were done without comment and, according to board member Karen Harshman, followed earlier votes by the board in a closed meeting.

Harshman voted against both Ridenour and Fischer.

During an interview after the meeting, she said: "In both cases, there were other people I would have preferred had the office." She declined to say which board members.

"I feel that the presidency should be shared, not one person monopolizing it for a long time," Harshman said.

Board member Donna Brightman joined Harshman in voting against Ridenour.

"I feel strongly that someone who's running a campaign ... should not be serving as officer on the board," she said.

Ridenour recently said that he expects to run for re-election next year.

Of the other three board members whose terms also will expire in 2012, Brightman has said she plans to run again, Justin M. Hartings has said he hasn't decided whether to seek re-election, and W. Edward Forrest has said he is not running again.

Forrest was the board's vice president until new officers were chosen on Tuesday.

Asked about serving as board president, Ridenour said the duties are clearly spelled out, including speaking for and signing documents on behalf of the board, and setting the agenda for meetings.

Harshman said she proposed another person as president during the board's closed session earlier in the day, but her idea was rejected, so she didn't suggest a vice president. She also didn't suggest other officers during the board's public session.

Richard Wright, a spokesman for Washington County Public Schools, said the board acted in the administrative function capacity during its closed session when choosing new officers.

However, the official vote was taken during a public meeting, as it always has been, he wrote in an email.

State law allows — but does not require — government bodies to secretly discuss, without notice, "the administration of" a law, rule, regulation or bylaw.

It is different than the "executive session" provision of the state's Open Meetings Act, which allows government bodies to hold private discussions on a limited number of topics after advance notice is given.

Robert N. McDonald, a Maryland assistant attorney general who specializes in open government, agreed during a phone interview that a board choosing officers falls into the administrative function category.

Ridenour said the board, "for professional courtesy," has traditionally chosen its leaders in private, so it can work out any differences and develop "a united front" before having a public vote.

Still, anyone who dissented privately can raise an objection during the public meeting, Ridenour said.

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