Did the Virginia Beach School Board just violate the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and hold an Illegal meeting?
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) states that proper public notice, reasonable under the circumstances, should be given for a special meeting of a public body. The notice “shall be given contemporaneously with the notice provided to the members of the public body conducting the meeting”. Furthermore, FOIA laws state that meetings shall be open to the public.
It is my opinion that the School Board violated the FOIA open meetings law by not properly publicizing their meeting on June 1 or giving proper notification, by adding an agenda item (that changes the next public meeting date) at the last minute in violation of by-laws and not allowing proper public access to the meeting.
Was the reason for these shenanigans so that the public would be confused about the date of the next meeting and not attend? At the next meeting there will be a vote on Carolyn Weems resolution to Clarify Equity Training that would prohibit Critical Race Theory and associated teachings/trainings.
Was the purpose of these shenanigans to change the next meeting from June 8 to June 9 so that Kimberly Melnyk could attend the next meeting? She is on the Democrat primary ballot for delegate and perhaps she wanted to be at the polls campaigning rather than at the School Board meeting on June 8th.
The School Board had a meeting on June 1, initially for the purpose of evaluating the Superintendent and then holding a vote regarding the evaluation. The School Board has not allowed the public to attend its meetings since the Spring of 2020 and has been streaming the meetings online. The School Board building where the meeting took place is kept locked and the meeting was not broadcast to the public.
School Board By-Law 1-46 states that “No business shall be transacted at any special meeting of the School Board which does not come within the purposes set forth in the call for the meeting unless all Members of the School Board are present, and there is a unanimous agreement to consider additional items of business.”. The School Board Clerk (who is new to the position and is directed by the School Board Chair), did put out a notice to the School Board via email on May 26, 2021 at 5:33pm of a special meeting “for the purpose of conducting the Superintendent’s annual evaluation.” No further agenda items were included in the notice.
The School Board did not post this “special” meeting on its website where it posts its meeting schedule. If you check the website here, it is still not listed. As a School Board member, I was made aware through email from the School Board chair on May 17th that the Board would be holding a special meeting on June 1. Based upon my interpretation of FOIA, the public should have been notified contemporaneously on May 17th by publicizing it on the School Board website where the other public School Board meetings are posted.
I notified the School Board Chair on May 28th that I did not see notice for our public meeting on the School Board website and that I didn’t feel that proper notice had been given to the public regarding the meeting. I also sent the School Board Chair an email on June 1 at 11:43am that I believed the Board was in violation of the Open Meetings Act for not properly publicizing the meeting.
Furthermore, the agenda was modified and an item was added at the last minut (in violation of By-Law 1-46). As a School Board member, I was not notified that an item was being added to the agenda. The item added was for the purpose of changing the date of the next School Board meeting (from June 8 to June 9).
The agenda for the June 1 meeting was posted to the agenda link but it was not seen by the general public because the meeting date was not posted to the public page. The agenda stated that if the public wanted to access the meeting, they would need to contact the clerk prior to noon on June 1. However, how would the public find the agenda if they didn't know about the meeting? If a member of the public did happen to find out about the public meeting at 12:30 on June 1, they would not have been able to access the meeting.
I did not attend the meeting on June 1 because I felt that it was an illegal meeting being held in violation of law.
The public may petition the courts when the Freedom of Information Act is violated.