PARKERSBURG - Tuesday evening's meeting of the Wood County Board of Education began with member Lawrence Hasbargen asking a question: "Do we have enough for a quorum?"
Hasbargen was one of two board members joining Tuesday's meeting via phone, with three other members physically in attendance. Had only two members been at the meeting, the answer would have been "no."
Board members on Tuesday discussed possibly changing the board's Policy 1120.2: "Rules and Regulations Governing the Wood County Board of Education and the Rules Governing the Conducting of Board Meetings," to no longer require a physical quorum.
Photo by Michael Erb
Board member John Marlow dials out for a conference call during Tuesday’s Wood County Board of Education meeting. The board is discussing whether its meeting policy can be changed to allow members participating remotely to count toward a quorum, or whether state law requires at least three members to be physically present to hold a meeting.
Superintendent Pat Law said he believes state law would allow the move, citing West Virginia code 6-9A-2, part 4, which defines a meeting to include "telephone conference or other electronic means."
However, board President Tim Yeater said part 7 of the code, which defines a quorum as "a gathering of a simple majority of the constituent membership of a governing body" could be interpreted to mean a physical presence of at least three members is required.
Board members also said other problems may arise from including members participating remotely in the quorum.
"For example, when you look at the personnel matters (to be approved), I don't have the addendum," Hasbargen said. "My take is, I probably shouldn't vote."
The board separated its main personnel list and the addendum personnel list Tuesday, with the former being approved 5-0 and the latter being approved 3-0, with Hasbargen and board member Jim Fox, who also called into the meeting, abstaining.
Hasbargen and Fox also abstained on a 3-0 vote Tuesday to expel a student for violating the Safe Schools Act because written details of the incident were given to board members at the meeting.
In those two cases, Yeater said, if the members participating remotely were part of the quorum and abstained, the board could not vote on the items because it technically would no longer have a quorum.
"You are going to get into slippery territory," Yeater said. "You will run into that situation."
Fox said he believed better preparation and more use of electronic documents would negate those issues.
The meetings policy discussion follows a Nov. 27 meeting which was postponed one day due to the lack of a physical quorum on the originally scheduled night. Only two board members - Yeater and member John Marlow - were in attendance for the meeting, while Hasbargen and Fox attended via conference call. Board member Tad Wilson was scheduled to be out of town at the time of that meeting.
The board Tuesday requested the policy be put out on a 30-day comment period and instructed Law to seek legal advice on whether the change would be allowed under state law.